31 December 2012

West Antarctica Warming Faster Than Thought, Study Finds


Reposted from NYT

by JUSTIN GILLIS

West Antarctica has warmed much more than scientists had thought over the last half century, new research suggests, an ominous finding given that the huge ice sheet there may be vulnerable to long-term collapse, with potentially drastic effects on sea levels.
A paper released on Sunday by the journal Nature Geoscience reports that the temperature at a research station in the middle of West Antarctica has warmed by 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1958. That is roughly twice as much as scientists previously thought and three times the overall rate of global warming, making central West Antarctica one of the fastest-warming regions on earth.

“The surprises keep coming,” said Andrew J. Monaghan, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., who took part in the study. “When you see this type of warming, I think it’s alarming.”Of course, warming in Antarctica is a relative concept. West Antarctica remains an exceedingly cold place, with average annual temperatures in the center of the ice sheet that are nearly 50 degrees Fahrenheit below freezing.

But the temperature there does sometimes rise above freezing in the summer, and the new research raises the possibility that it might begin to happen more often, potentially weakening the ice sheet through surface melting. The ice sheet is already under attack at the edges by warmer ocean water, and scientists are on alert for any fresh threat.

A potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is one of the long-term hazards that have led experts to worry about global warming. The base of the ice sheet sits below sea level, in a configuration that makes it especially vulnerable. Scientists say a breakup of the ice sheet, over a period that would presumably last at least several hundred years, could raise global sea levels by 10 feet, possibly more.

The new research is an attempt to resolve a scientific controversy that erupted several years ago about exactly how fast West Antarctica is warming. With few automated weather stations and even fewer human observers in the region, scientists have had to use statistical techniques to infer long-term climate trends from sparse data.

A nearby area called the Antarctic Peninsula, which juts north from West Antarctica and for which fairly good records are available, was already known to be warming rapidly. A 2009 paper found extensive warming in the main part of West Antarctica, but those results were challenged by a group that included climate change contrarians.

To try to get to the bottom of the question, David H. Bromwich of Ohio State University pulled together a team that focused on a single temperature record. At a lonely outpost called Byrd Station, in central West Antarctica, people and automated equipment have been keeping track of temperature and other weather variables since the late 1950s.

It is by far the longest weather record in that region, but it had intermittent gaps and other problems that had made many researchers wary of it. The Bromwich group decided to try to salvage the Byrd record.

They retrieved one of the sensors and recalibrated at the University of Wisconsin. They discovered a software error that had introduced mistakes into the record and then used computerized analyses of the atmosphere to fill the gaps.

The reconstruction will most likely undergo intensive scientific scrutiny, which Dr. Bromwich said he would welcome. “We’ve tested everything we could think of,” he said.

Assuming the research holds up, it suggests that the 2009 paper, far from overestimating warming in West Antarctica, had probably underestimated it, especially in summer.

Eric J. Steig, a University of Washington researcher who led the 2009 work, said in an interview that he considered his paper to have been supplanted by the new research. “I think their results are better than ours, and should be adopted as the best estimate,” he said. He noted that the new Byrd record matches a recent temperature reconstruction from a nearby borehole in the ice sheet, adding confidence in the findings.

Much of the warming discovered in the new paper happened in the 1980s, around the same time the planet was beginning to warm briskly. More recently, Dr. Bromwich said, the weather in West Antarctica seems to have become somewhat erratic. In the summer of 2005, the interior of West Antarctica warmed enough for the ice to undergo several days of surface melting.

Dr. Bromwich is worried that this could eventually become routine, perhaps accelerating the decay of the West Antarctic ice sheet, but the warming is not fast enough for that to happen right away. “We’re talking decades into the future, I think,” Dr. Bromwich said.

30 December 2012

Energy Subsidies


Anti-wind and anti-solar folks (yes, there are a few out there — mostly tied to the fossil fuel industry) love to bring up renewable energy subsidies. However, there are so many reasons why they really shouldn’t be eager to do so. For example, fossil fuel and nuclear subsidies dwarf renewable energy subsidies.



Subsidies in first 15 years of subsidies for various energy sources.

Additionally, many indirect subsidies never even get counted in most subsidy analyses — such as the tremendous extent to which we subsidize oil through our military and the tremendous health externalities not included in the price of fossil fuels (neither of which are included in the price of fossil fuels).

But there’s another point which gets even less attention. Here’s a reader comment that I thought was worth a repost:

Yes, we have supported oil, wind and solar with subsidies. Look how that’s played out.

Wind, 30 years ago, produced electricity at $0.38/kWh. Now it’s producing at $0.04/kWh to $0.06/kWh and on its way down to $0.03/kWh in the near future. (Already, we’ve seen a 9.5x drop.)

Solar panels, 30-40 years ago, cost as much as $100/watt. Solar panels are now being manufactured for prices approaching $0.50/watt.  (That’s almost a 200x price drop.)

Oil, in 1946, was $18.89 a barrel (2012/current dollars) and in 2012 it’s running about $100 a barrel. (More than a 5x increase.)

Support for oil might have kept prices from rising further, but it has not made oil cheaper.

Support for wind and solar have made them much cheaper. Our investments are returning massive dividends.

Wind has gone down to 1/6th its early price, solar to 1/100th, and oil has risen by more than 5x. Exactly how has that oil subsidy worked out for us?

Image Credits: Climate Progress

Reposted from Solar Insider's News

29 December 2012

Entitled

28 December 2012

27 December 2012

New Town?

26 December 2012

25 December 2012

No Comment

24 December 2012

EPA Announces Next Round of Clean Air Standards to Reduce Harmful Soot Pollution


WASHINGTON – In response to a court order, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized an update to its national air quality standards for harmful fine particle pollution (PM2.5), including soot, setting the annual health standard at 12 micrograms per cubic meter. By 2020, ninety-nine percent of U.S. counties are projected to meet revised health standard without any additional actions

Today’s announcement has no effect on the existing daily standard for fine particles or the existing daily standard for coarse particles (PM10), which includes dust from farms and other sources), both of which remain unchanged.

“These standards are fulfilling the promise of the Clean Air Act. We will save lives and reduce the burden of illness in our communities, and families across the country will benefit from the simple fact of being able to breathe cleaner air,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

Fine particle pollution can penetrate deep into the lungs and has been linked to a wide range of serious health effects, including premature death, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children. A federal court ruling required EPA to update the standard based on best available science. Today’s announcement, which meets that requirement, builds on smart steps already taken by EPA to slash dangerous pollution in communities across the country. Thanks to these steps, 99 percent of U.S. counties are projected to meet the standard without any additional action.

It is expected that fewer than 10 counties, out of the more than 3,000 counties in the United States, will need to consider any local actions to reduce fine particle pollution in order to meet the new standard by 2020, as required by the Clean Air Act. The rest can rely on air quality improvements from federal rules already on the books to meet this new standard.

More on the 2020 Map: http://www.epa.gov/pm/2012/2020map.pdf

The standard, which was proposed in June and is consistent with the advice from the agency’s independent science advisors, is based on an extensive body of scientific evidence that includes thousands of studies – including many large studies which show negative health impacts at lower levels than previously understood. It also follows extensive consultation with stakeholders, including the public, health organizations, and industry, and after considering more than 230,000 public comments.

By 2030, it is expected that all standards that cut PM2.5 from diesel vehicles and equipment alone will prevent up to 40,000 premature deaths, 32,000 hospital admissions and 4.7 million days of work lost due to illness.

Because reductions in fine particle pollution have direct health benefits including decreased mortality rates, fewer incidents of heart attacks, strokes, and childhood asthma, the PM2.5 standards announced today have major economic benefits with comparatively low costs. EPA estimates health benefits of the revised standard to range from $4 billion to over $9 billion per year, with estimated costs of implementation ranging from $53 million to $350 million. While EPA cannot consider costs in selecting a standard under the Clean Air Act, those costs are estimated as part of the careful analysis undertaken for all significant regulations, as required by Executive Order 13563 issued by President Obama in January 2011.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review its air quality standards every five years to determine whether the standards should be revised. The law requires the agency to ensure the standards are “requisite to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety” and “requisite to protect the public welfare.” A federal court required EPA to issue final standard by December 14, because the agency did not meet its five-year legal deadline for reviewing the standards.

EPA carefully considered extensive public input as it determined the appropriate final standard to protect public health. The agency held two public hearings and received more than 230,000 written comments before finalizing today’s updated air quality standards.

More information: http://www.epa.gov/pm 

23 December 2012

Europe's Energy Transformation, and Why We're Being Left in the Dust


Americans' greatest challenge in energy generation is appreciating what is possible because too many of us don't know what is already happening in other parts of the world - for example, the powerful story of Europe's energy transformation.

When residents of the small city of Freiburg, Germany, go to school or work in the morning, they pass dozens of solar installations. There are solar panels on homes, on churches, on the facade of the main train station, on the soccer stadium, throughout a "solar housing development" and a "solar business park" and on the roofs of schools. All told, Freiburg's solar photovoltaic (PV) installations produce enough electricity to meet the needs of tens of thousands of homes.

Additionally, five large wind turbines are situated on hilltops within the city's boundaries and contribute to the town's energy supply. Small hydroelectric plants sit on the river, as well as combined heat and power plants and biomass plants that burn biogas and rapeseed oil, along with other facilities that burn wood chips and pellets.

Freiburg is known as a "Green City," but it is not atypical for the region or the nation. In May 2012, solar PV supplied 10 percent of Germany's electricity. During the first nine months of 2012, Germany produced enough electricity from renewable energy sources including wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric plants to supply 26 percent of its demand.

This capacity has been growing rapidly from year to year, and renewables already represent roughly double the share of Germany's electricity production as compared to the United States.

Click here for the rest of the article

22 December 2012

Largest Solar Farm in Virginia


By Scott Harper
The Virginian-Pilot
© December 4, 2012
NORFOLK

The Navy has completed construction of the largest solar energy project in Virginia, a 10-acre landscape of black solar panels in neat rows within sight of the Chesapeake Bay and the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

The solar farm contains more than 8,600 panels, each bolted onto steel stilts in a marshy field called Monkey Bottom, just outside the fenceline of Norfolk Naval Station. Together, they can generate up to 2.1 megawatts of electricity - enough to power 200 homes, said Michelle Perry, project manager for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

That's only about 2 percent of the electricity required to run the Norfolk Navy base, the largest of its kind in the world, "but you have to start somewhere," Perry said.

Although construction was finished late last month, the photovoltaic panels are not yet connected to the electricity grid that feeds the base. The connection is expected by Christmas, Perry said, allowing the base to start using the renewable energy and not have to pay Dominion Virginia Power for it.

"It's an absolutely amazing sight," Perry said Tuesday, as she and colleagues looked at the farm from a small sand hill. One colleague, Tom Kreidel, said the facility is the largest solar project at any Navy base on the East Coast, outsized only by ones in Western states where solar energy is more common.

The project cost $21 million and was part of President Barack Obama's stimulus package. According to Pentagon figures, the government allocated more than $335 million in stimulus money for renewable-power projects at bases - a move intended to speed the military's conversion from fossil fuels to cleaner energy, and to advance green technology.

Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, signed executive orders for the Department of Defense to pursue alternative energy. One mandate calls for each base to be using renewable sources for 50 percent of its power by 2020.

The solar project will help the Norfolk Navy base meet this requirement, said Paula Teague, an energy management specialist with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

No other solar-panel projects are in the pipeline at Navy bases in Hampton Roads, Teague said - though if the Monkey Bottom facility does well, the Navy might be inclined to seek money for more.

The project comes as Virginia is struggling to keep pace with neighboring states in developing large-scale solar energy.

Monkey Bottom is "by far the biggest project in the state right now," said Ken Jurman, who tracks such facilities for the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.

Jurman said the closest competitors can be found at an Ikea department store in Northern Virginia and at Washington and Lee University in Lexington. There, the school installed solar panels on a parking garage and atop a main campus building.

Those projects, he added, are each about a quarter of the size of the Navy's.

Jurman said North Carolina and Maryland are seeing major solar projects advance while Virginia remains near the starting gate.

The Pentagon's investments in clean energy have not been without controversy. House Republicans, especially, have questioned the efficiency and wisdom of spending so much money on noncombat programs during times of foreign wars.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon's inspector general has been watching how stimulus money has been spent over the past three years. Among many critical reports nationally, one issued last year found fault at Norfolk Naval Station and its handling of $1 million in solar and lighting upgrades.

Under Pentagon guidelines, the work was supposed to save enough money through lower utility bills and other discounts to make the investment worth it. But the report found that it would take 447 years for the Navy to make back its money because the savings are so scant.

Despite the criticism, an undersecretary of defense did not halt the work, as the inspector general recommended, arguing that it still was in the best interest of the Navy to finish the project.

There was no mention of Monkey Bottom and its expected performance in the report.

21 December 2012

Iceland

20 December 2012

19 December 2012

18 December 2012

Socialism 101

17 December 2012

47% Stupid as hell!

16 December 2012

15 December 2012

Education

14 December 2012

Oil Fact Check

13 December 2012

12 December 2012

OBAMA - Caught!

11 December 2012

No Comment

10 December 2012

Greenhouse Gas Concentrations Reach New Record WMO Bulletin highlights pivotal role of carbon sinks


Geneva, 20 November (WMO) – The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2011, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Between 1990 and 2011 there was a 30% increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – because of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping long-lived gases.
Since the start of the industrial era in 1750, about 375 billion tonnes of carbon have been released into the atmosphere as CO2, primarily from fossil fuel combustion, according to WMO’s 2011 Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, which had a special focus on the carbon cycle.  About half of this carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere, with the rest being absorbed by the oceans and terrestrial biosphere.
“These billions of tonnes of additional carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will remain there for centuries, causing our planet to warm further and impacting on all aspects of life on earth,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “Future emissions will only compound the situation.”
“Until now, carbon sinks have absorbed nearly half of the carbon dioxide humans emitted in the atmosphere, but this will not necessarily continue in the future. We have already seen that the oceans are becoming more acidic as a result of the carbon dioxide uptake, with potential repercussions for the underwater food chain and coral reefs. There are many additional interactions between greenhouse gases, Earth’s biosphere and oceans, and we need to boost our monitoring capability and scientific knowledge in order to better understand these,” said Mr Jarraud.
“WMO’s Global Atmosphere Watch network, spanning more than 50 countries, provides accurate measurements which form the basis of our understanding of greenhouse gas concentrations, including their many sources, sinks and chemical transformations in the atmosphere,” said Mr Jarraud.
The role of carbon sinks is pivotal in the overall carbon equation. If the extra CO2 emitted is stored in reservoirs such as the deep oceans, it could be trapped for hundreds or even thousands of years. By contrast, new forests retain carbon for a much shorter time span.
The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reports on atmospheric concentrations – and not emissions - of greenhouse gases. Emissions represent what goes into the atmosphere. Concentrations represent what remains in the atmosphere after the complex system of interactions between the atmosphere, biosphere and the oceans.
CO2 is the most important of the long-lived greenhouse gases – so named because they trap radiation within the Earth’s atmosphere causing it to warm. Human activities, such as fossil fuel burning and land use change (for instance, tropical deforestation), are the main sources of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The other main long-lived greenhouse gases are methane and nitrous oxide. Increasing concentrations of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are drivers of climate change.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index, quoted in the bulletin, shows that from 1990 to 2011, radiative forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases increased by 30%, with CO2 accounting for about 80% of this increase. Total radiative forcing of all long-lived greenhouse gases was the CO2 equivalent of 473 parts per million in 2011.
Carbon dioxide (CO2)
Carbon dioxide is the single most important greenhouse gas emitted by human activities. It is responsible for 85% of the increase in radiative forcing over the past decade. According to WMO’s bulletin, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere reached 390.9 parts per million in 2011, or 140% of the pre-industrial level of 280 parts per million.
The pre-industrial era level represented a balance of CO2 fluxes between the atmosphere, the oceans and the biosphere. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased on average by 2 parts per million per year for the past 10 years.
Methane (CH4)
Methane is the second most important long-lived greenhouse gas. Approximately 40% of methane is emitted into the atmosphere by natural sources (e.g., wetlands and termites), and about 60 % comes from activities like cattle breeding, rice agriculture, fossil fuel exploitation, landfills and biomass burning.  Atmospheric methane reached a new high of about 1813 parts per billion (ppb) in 2011, or 259% of the pre-industrial level, due to increased emissions from anthropogenic sources. Since 2007, atmospheric methane has been increasing again after a period of levelling-off with a nearly constant rate during the last 3 years.
Nitrous oxide (N2O)
Nitrous oxide is emitted into the atmosphere from both natural (about 60%) and anthropogenic sources (approximately 40%), including oceans, soil, biomass burning, fertilizer use, and various industrial processes. Its atmospheric concentration in 2011 was about 324.2 parts per billion, which is 1.0 ppb above the previous year and 120% of the pre-industrial level.  Its impact on climate, over a 100 year period, is 298 times greater than equal emissions of carbon dioxide. It also plays an important role in the destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer which protects us from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.

09 December 2012

To Stop Climate Change, Students Aim at College Portfolios


Reposted from NYT

SWARTHMORE, Pa. — A group of Swarthmore College students is asking the school administration to take a seemingly simple step to combat pollution and climate change: sell off the endowment’s holdings in large fossil fuel companies. For months, they have been getting a simple answer: no.

In recent weeks, college students on dozens of campuses have demanded that university endowment funds rid themselves of coal, oil and gas stocks. The students see it as a tactic that could force climate change, barely discussed in the presidential campaign, back onto the national political agenda.

“We’ve reached this point of intense urgency that we need to act on climate change now, but the situation is bleaker than it’s ever been from a political perspective,” said William Lawrence, a Swarthmore senior from East Lansing, Mich.

Students who have signed on see it as a conscious imitation of the successful effort in the 1980s to pressure colleges and other institutions to divest themselves of the stocks of companies doing business in South Africa under apartheid.

A small institution in Maine, Unity College, has already voted to get out of fossil fuels. Another, Hampshire College in Massachusetts, has adopted a broad investment policy that is ridding its portfolio of fossil fuel stocks.

“In the near future, the political tide will turn and the public will demand action on climate change,” Stephen Mulkey, the Unity College president, wrote in a letter to other college administrators. “Our students are already demanding action, and we must not ignore them.”

But at colleges with large endowments, many administrators are viewing the demand skeptically, saying it would undermine their goal of maximum returns in support of education. Fossil fuel companies represent a significant portion of the stock market, comprising nearly 10 percent of the value of the Russell 3000, a broad index of 3,000 American companies.

No school with an endowment exceeding $1 billion has agreed to divest itself of fossil fuel stocks. At Harvard, which holds the largest endowment in the country at $31 billion, the student body recently voted to ask the school to do so. With roughly half the undergraduates voting, 72 percent of them supported the demand.

“We always appreciate hearing from students about their viewpoints, but Harvard is not considering divesting from companies related to fossil fuels,” Kevin Galvin, a university spokesman, said by e-mail.

Several organizations have been working on some version of a divestment campaign, initially focusing on coal, for more than a year. But the recent escalation has largely been the handiwork of a grass-roots organization, 350.org, that focuses on climate change, and its leader, Bill McKibben, a writer turned advocate. The group’s name is a reference to what some scientists see as a maximum safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, 350 parts per million. The level is now about 390, an increase of 41 percent since before the Industrial Revolution.

Mr. McKibben is touring the country by bus, speaking at sold-out halls and urging students to begin local divestment initiatives focusing on 200 energy companies. Many of the students attending said they were inspired to do so by an article he wrote over the summer in Rolling Stone magazine, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.”

Speaking recently to an audience at the University of Vermont, Mr. McKibben painted the fossil fuel industry as an enemy that must be defeated, arguing that it had used money and political influence to block climate action in Washington. “This is no different than the tobacco industry — for years, they lied about the dangers of their industry,” Mr. McKibben said.

Eric Wohlschlegel, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, said that continued use of fossil fuels was essential for the country’s economy, but that energy companies were investing heavily in ways to emit less carbon dioxide.

In an interview, Mr. McKibben said he recognized that a rapid transition away from fossil fuels would be exceedingly difficult. But he said strong government policies to limit emissions were long overdue, and were being blocked in part by the political power of the incumbent industry.

Mr. McKibben’s goal is to make owning the stocks of these companies disreputable, in the way that owning tobacco stocks has become disreputable in many quarters. Many colleges will not buy them, for instance.

Mr. McKibben has laid out a series of demands that would get the fuel companies off 350.org’s blacklist. He wants them to stop exploring for new fossil fuels, given that they have already booked reserves about five times as large as scientists say society can afford to burn. He wants them to stop lobbying against emission policies in Washington. And he wants them to help devise a transition plan that will leave most of their reserves in the ground while encouraging lower-carbon energy sources.

“They need more incentive to make the transition that they must know they need to make, from fossil fuel companies to energy companies,” Mr. McKibben said.

Most college administrations, at the urging of their students, have been taking global warming seriously for years, spending money on steps like cutting energy consumption and installing solar panels.

The divestment demand is so new that most administrators are just beginning to grapple with it. Several of them, in interviews, said that even though they tended to agree with students on the seriousness of the problem, they feared divisive boardroom debates on divestment.

That was certainly the case in the 1980s, when the South African divestment campaign caused bitter arguments across the nation.

The issue then was whether divestment, potentially costly, would have much real effect on companies doing business in South Africa. Even today, historians differ on whether it did. But the campaign required prominent people to grapple with the morality of apartheid, altering the politics of the issue. Economic pressure from many countries ultimately helped to force the whites-only South African government to the bargaining table.

Mr. Lawrence, the Swarthmore senior, said that many of today’s students found that campaign inspirational because it “transformed what was seemingly an intractable problem.”

Swarthmore, a liberal arts college southwest of Philadelphia, is a small school with a substantial endowment, about $1.5 billion. The trustees acceded to divestment demands during that campaign, in 1986, but only after a series of confrontational tactics by students, including brief occupations of the president’s office.

The board later adopted a policy stating that it would be unlikely to take such a step again.

“The college’s policy is that the endowment is not to be invested for social purposes” beyond the obvious one of educating students, said Suzanne P. Welsh, vice president for finance at the school. “To use the endowment in support of other missions is not appropriate. It’s not what our donors have given money for.”

About a dozen Swarthmore students came up with the divestment tactic two years ago after working against the strip mining of coal atop mountains in Appalachia, asking the school to divest itself of investments in a short list of energy companies nicknamed the Sordid 16.

So far, the students have avoided confrontation. The campaign has featured a petition signed by nearly half the student body, small demonstrations and quirky art installations. The college president, a theologian named Rebecca Chopp, has expressed support for their goals but not their means.

Matters could escalate in coming months, with Swarthmore scheduled to host a February meeting — the students call it a “convergence” — of 150 students from other colleges who are working on divestment.

Students said they were well aware that the South Africa campaign succeeded only after on-campus actions like hunger strikes, sit-ins and the seizure of buildings. Some of them are already having talks with their parents about how far to go.

“When it comes down to it, the members of the board are not the ones who are inheriting the climate problem,” said Sachie Hopkins-Hayakawa, a Swarthmore senior from Portland, Ore. “We are.”


Brent Summers contributed reporting from Burlington, Vt.

07 December 2012

All Plastic Bags Banned in Delhi

by Kristina Chew


Plastic bags were banned in the Indian capital of Delhi in 2009. As of this past month, the government has imposed a far more extensive ban, with new rules outlawing plastic wrappers on magazines and greeting cards. The ban covers “all use, sale and manufacture of plastic bags in the city” and “no exceptions will be made,” as an anonymous official said to AFP (via the Telegraph). Plastic bags can also not be used for garbage collecting in the city and the bags cannot be imported, notes The Hindu.

Delhi’s population of 17 million generates 1.2 million pounds of trash, plenty of it plastic, per day. As the anonymous official comments, citing the health hazards to humans and animals:

Plastic is an environmental disaster. These bags clog the city’s drains, they are non-biodegradable. It might take time, but we have to ensure that this ruling is enforced throughout Delhi.

Unfortunately, the 2009 ban turned out to be mostly toothless, with fruit and vegetable vendors, small stores and restaurants offering take-out food still using cheap bags made of thin plastic.

Now those who violate the law could face a fine of 100,000 rupees ($1,807) or up to five years in jail, says the BBC. But how to actually carry out the ban remains an issue. The Hindu says that government officials “appeared at a loss on how to implement the stringent provisions.”

The new law has already been challenged. As in the U.S. and Canada, manufacturers of plastic are none too pleased about it. The All India Plastic Industries Association (AIPIA) has filed a lawsuit against the Delhi government and claims that the ban will mean the end of jobs for thousands of people who make plastic bags and sell them. The case is being heard by the Delhi High Court.

Canadian and U.S. cities including Toronto, Los Angeles and Dana Point have banned plastic bags. Toronto is facing not one but two lawsuits from manufacturers over the ban.

Of course the Delhi ban will cause difficulties in the short term. There are few alternatives available; AFP (via the Telegraph) notes that bags from jute are popular but not widely available. Plastic bags can still be used for biomedical waste products and for packaging food (cooking oil, milk, flour) and plastic cups are still allowed.

The Delhi government has said that unspecified “efforts would be made to create awareness about the issue.” One effort ought to involve informing the public about alternatives to plastic bags and incentives to create, make and use them.

But the uproar over the law and the degree of reliance people are expressing about plastic bags make it all the more clear why a ban is needed. Plastic bags are just too convenient and too readily available and, human nature being what it is, people are highly unlikely to stop using them unless they are not there for the taking — something for us all to keep in mind, whether we’re in India or the U.S.



Read more

05 December 2012

From Tom "amen brother" Degan


The Petitions are rolling in from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas - all calling for secession. Good. Let them secede. 

I say this to you as someone with generations of southern roots that lie underneath the soil at the foot of my family tree. I am a direct descendant of Lord Baltimore, founder of the state of Maryland. I am also descended from a southerner who signed the Declaration of Independence (Charles Carroll) and I have relatives whom I love dearly from Texas and Georgia. When it comes to Dixieland, my family's historical credentials are on pretty solid ground. That being said, I must confess to you that I'm sick and tired of the south. I'm sick of southern accents. I'm sick of southern values and culture. I'm sick of southern music. And, God almighty, I'm sick-to-death  of southern politicians.

I've got a really grand idea. LET 'EM SECEDE! Throughout our history, presidents of every political persuasion have been forced to twist themselves into knots, bend over backwards, walk on cracked eggshells - just to avoid offending the sensibilities of the reactionary halfwits in dear ol' Dixie. For over two long centuries it's been like dealing with an ocean of one-hundred million, mentally ill eight-year-old children. Let's just throw in the towel here and now and finally admit it: They weren't worth the trouble. Let them go and be done with them.

One-hundred and fifty years ago, their ancestors waged a war against the government of the United States. Close to three-quarters of a million people perished in that war. That's genocide. A century and a half later, most of the descendants of that confederacy of dunces are proud of this fact. In some places they still fly the rebel flag at courthouses and state capitals. Some have it flying over their homes. Why keep these fools in the union if they obviously don't appreciate what it means to be a citizen of this country?

Their insane reaction to the reelection of the first African American president in history should tell us that - not only do they not want to be here - they don't belong here. If they really are so intent on leaving, let them leave. Don't fight another civil war over the matter. They have proven that they're not worth the trouble.

Let them start the deregulated, right wing paradise of their weird and twisted fantasies. Give them their Confederate States of America. And then watch in utter glee as they sink into an unlivable, ungovernable cesspool. No other region of the nation has been more dependent on federal cash than the south. Let's see how long they last when the rest of us are no longer around to sustain them. Watch them as they implode into an inferno of political, social and economic chaos. Sweet schadenfreude. Good bye and good riddance.

But before they leave, let's build a sturdy wall of steel and concrete and razor wire. What better way to stem the tide of political and economic refugees who will surely flood our border after less than six months?

For two-hundred and thirty-six years they've been dragging the rest of America down into the dirt. For two-hundred and thirty-six years we've had to make excuses for their idiocy to the rest of the planet. For two-hundred and thirty-six years they've been a national embarrassment, an economic and sociological albatross.

Let them go. Just let them go.

Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net 

03 December 2012

No Comment

02 December 2012

POVERTY

y

01 December 2012

Social Security Has A Simple And Easy Fix



The Republicans are still trying to damage Social Security. They have always hated it, and have tried many ways to get rid of it. The latest effort was an attempt to privatize it (putting the elderly at the mercy of the stock market). That didn't work, so now they are trying a different attack. They say that the program is bankrupt and cannot continue with cutting benefits and raising the retirement age. And they say the program won't be there for younger Americans when they need it.

These are all LIES! Social Security can continue to pay full benefits for another 25 years, and then continue paying over 75% of benefits even if nothing is done. And a simple adjustment, raising or eliminating the cap on FICA taxes, would make the program solvent for generations. The program is NOT bankrupt, and WILL be there when younger Americans need it.

And the best part of this simple adjustment is that almost all of the working and middle classes wouldn't have to pay any more in FICA taxes than they currently pay. All it would do is ask wealthy Americans to pay the same percentage that workers already pay (which they should be doing anyway).

Don't fall for the Republican lies. Don't let them cut benefits, raise the retirement age, or privatize Social Security. The truth is that Social Security is an excellent government program, which works exactly like it was supposed to work. It has significantly reduced the number of elderly Americans living in poverty.

Reposted from Jobsanger