Collective Failure. Singular Opportunity.

Last Thursday was the one-month anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster and every day, we see more and more evidence that collectively we have failed to not only act, but also we have failed to organize and express our anger about the disaster, and its truly shocking long-term consequences.

My friend Peter Daou wrote a remarkable post, The Great Shame: America's Pathetic Response To The Gulf Catastrophe earlier this week -- a very popular one I might add judging by the over 1,200 comments.

One thing that struck me is this passage:

This isn't Katrina II, it's worse. As the oil keeps gushing and the damage keeps growing, we are squandering a rare chance to turn the tide against those whose laziness and greed and ignorance is imperiling every living thing on our wonderful and beautiful -- and wounded --- planet.


Words are a necessary precursor to deeds, anger is an essential ingredient for social change. Speaking up and speaking out is the difference between apathy and action.

We all do need to speak up, we all do need to speak out and we all need to make our voices heard. Every single day, the catastrophe is getting worse.

Today, as I debate why America is so apathetic towards the spill, I am in Los Angeles. As you travel the country, it's not top of the news anywhere anymore. It's fading away, but as the oil floods the Gulf, I was sent another great post by Pete Altman at NRDC, check out these shocking numbers about what one day of inaction looks like.

Because every day we delay,

The United States imports 11.7 million barrels of oil. According to the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. imported an average of 11.7 million barrels per day of crude and other oil products in 2009.

Iran earns $173 million in oil revenues. The Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts that Iran will generate oil export revenue at $63.4 billion this year from output of 3.82 million barrels per day (bpd). $63.4 billion divided by 365 days is $173.7 million.

Up to 4 million gallons of oil surges into the Gulf
. The official estimate is that about 5,000 barrels of oil are spilling per day, but independent experts contend that the actual amount is far higher -- as much as 95,000 barrels per day. A barrel holds 42 gallons.

China invests $95 million in clean energy -- nearly double the United States investment ($51 million.) In 2009, China invested $34.6 billion in clean energy compared to $18.6 billion in the U.S. ($34.6 billion/365 = $95 million a day, $18.6 billion/365 = $51 million a day.)

100,000 solar panels roll off Chinese production lines. Solar module production in China and Taiwan will increase 48 percent to 5,515 megawatts in 2010, according to a February, 2010 report by Yuanta. One megawatt requires about 5,000 panels. Assuming 250 production days per year, this translates to 110,300 panels per day.

The United States generates 19 million tons (metric) of greenhouse gas emissions per year. EPA's most recent greenhouse gas inventory reports that the U.S. produced 6,956.8 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 equivalent basis) in 2008. That's 19,059,726 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each day.

Clearly we need to move from apathy to action. Because as every day passes, as the evidence of our collective failure washes up on the beaches of the Gulf and deeper and deeper into the marshes of Louisiana, what's Washington's reaction?

"Pathetic" would be kind.

There will evidently be a commission to study this disaster, but as we saw with the 9/11 commission, even solid recommendations are usually ignored by one or both parties with little hope of action.

And Lindsey Graham, who has usually been the top Republican on the issue, thinks that the disaster in the Gulf is a cry for a "smaller" clean energy and climate change bill?

Smaller? This is what is so disgustingly wrong with Washington, and it's up to us to send a message.

Smaller? No way. This is a rallying cry to long-needed action.

Start by watching this:

And then go here and sign a letter to President Obama.

There's more we can all do and more we all must do but for today, it's a start.

 

 

Collective Failure. Singular Opportunity.

Last Thursday was the one-month anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster and every day, we see more and more evidence that collectively we have failed to not only act, but also we have failed to organize and express our anger about the disaster, and its truly shocking long-term consequences.

My friend Peter Daou wrote a remarkable post, The Great Shame: America's Pathetic Response To The Gulf Catastrophe earlier this week -- a very popular one I might add judging by the over 1,200 comments.

One thing that struck me is this passage:

This isn't Katrina II, it's worse. As the oil keeps gushing and the damage keeps growing, we are squandering a rare chance to turn the tide against those whose laziness and greed and ignorance is imperiling every living thing on our wonderful and beautiful -- and wounded --- planet.


Words are a necessary precursor to deeds, anger is an essential ingredient for social change. Speaking up and speaking out is the difference between apathy and action.

We all do need to speak up, we all do need to speak out and we all need to make our voices heard. Every single day, the catastrophe is getting worse.

Today, as I debate why America is so apathetic towards the spill, I am in Los Angeles. As you travel the country, it's not top of the news anywhere anymore. It's fading away, but as the oil floods the Gulf, I was sent another great post by Pete Altman at NRDC, check out these shocking numbers about what one day of inaction looks like.

Because every day we delay,

The United States imports 11.7 million barrels of oil. According to the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. imported an average of 11.7 million barrels per day of crude and other oil products in 2009.

Iran earns $173 million in oil revenues. The Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts that Iran will generate oil export revenue at $63.4 billion this year from output of 3.82 million barrels per day (bpd). $63.4 billion divided by 365 days is $173.7 million.

Up to 4 million gallons of oil surges into the Gulf
. The official estimate is that about 5,000 barrels of oil are spilling per day, but independent experts contend that the actual amount is far higher -- as much as 95,000 barrels per day. A barrel holds 42 gallons.

China invests $95 million in clean energy -- nearly double the United States investment ($51 million.) In 2009, China invested $34.6 billion in clean energy compared to $18.6 billion in the U.S. ($34.6 billion/365 = $95 million a day, $18.6 billion/365 = $51 million a day.)

100,000 solar panels roll off Chinese production lines. Solar module production in China and Taiwan will increase 48 percent to 5,515 megawatts in 2010, according to a February, 2010 report by Yuanta. One megawatt requires about 5,000 panels. Assuming 250 production days per year, this translates to 110,300 panels per day.

The United States generates 19 million tons (metric) of greenhouse gas emissions per year. EPA's most recent greenhouse gas inventory reports that the U.S. produced 6,956.8 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 equivalent basis) in 2008. That's 19,059,726 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each day.

Clearly we need to move from apathy to action. Because as every day passes, as the evidence of our collective failure washes up on the beaches of the Gulf and deeper and deeper into the marshes of Louisiana, what's Washington's reaction?

"Pathetic" would be kind.

There will evidently be a commission to study this disaster, but as we saw with the 9/11 commission, even solid recommendations are usually ignored by one or both parties with little hope of action.

And Lindsey Graham, who has usually been the top Republican on the issue, thinks that the disaster in the Gulf is a cry for a "smaller" clean energy and climate change bill?

Smaller? This is what is so disgustingly wrong with Washington, and it's up to us to send a message.

Smaller? No way. This is a rallying cry to long-needed action.

Start by watching this:

And then go here and sign a letter to President Obama.

There's more we can all do and more we all must do but for today, it's a start.

 

 

Collective Failure. Singular Opportunity.

Last Thursday was the one-month anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster and every day, we see more and more evidence that collectively we have failed to not only act, but also we have failed to organize and express our anger about the disaster, and its truly shocking long-term consequences.

My friend Peter Daou wrote a remarkable post, The Great Shame: America's Pathetic Response To The Gulf Catastrophe earlier this week -- a very popular one I might add judging by the over 1,200 comments.

One thing that struck me is this passage:

This isn't Katrina II, it's worse. As the oil keeps gushing and the damage keeps growing, we are squandering a rare chance to turn the tide against those whose laziness and greed and ignorance is imperiling every living thing on our wonderful and beautiful -- and wounded --- planet.


Words are a necessary precursor to deeds, anger is an essential ingredient for social change. Speaking up and speaking out is the difference between apathy and action.

We all do need to speak up, we all do need to speak out and we all need to make our voices heard. Every single day, the catastrophe is getting worse.

Today, as I debate why America is so apathetic towards the spill, I am in Los Angeles. As you travel the country, it's not top of the news anywhere anymore. It's fading away, but as the oil floods the Gulf, I was sent another great post by Pete Altman at NRDC, check out these shocking numbers about what one day of inaction looks like.

Because every day we delay,

The United States imports 11.7 million barrels of oil. According to the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. imported an average of 11.7 million barrels per day of crude and other oil products in 2009.

Iran earns $173 million in oil revenues. The Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts that Iran will generate oil export revenue at $63.4 billion this year from output of 3.82 million barrels per day (bpd). $63.4 billion divided by 365 days is $173.7 million.

Up to 4 million gallons of oil surges into the Gulf
. The official estimate is that about 5,000 barrels of oil are spilling per day, but independent experts contend that the actual amount is far higher -- as much as 95,000 barrels per day. A barrel holds 42 gallons.

China invests $95 million in clean energy -- nearly double the United States investment ($51 million.) In 2009, China invested $34.6 billion in clean energy compared to $18.6 billion in the U.S. ($34.6 billion/365 = $95 million a day, $18.6 billion/365 = $51 million a day.)

100,000 solar panels roll off Chinese production lines. Solar module production in China and Taiwan will increase 48 percent to 5,515 megawatts in 2010, according to a February, 2010 report by Yuanta. One megawatt requires about 5,000 panels. Assuming 250 production days per year, this translates to 110,300 panels per day.

The United States generates 19 million tons (metric) of greenhouse gas emissions per year. EPA's most recent greenhouse gas inventory reports that the U.S. produced 6,956.8 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 equivalent basis) in 2008. That's 19,059,726 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each day.

Clearly we need to move from apathy to action. Because as every day passes, as the evidence of our collective failure washes up on the beaches of the Gulf and deeper and deeper into the marshes of Louisiana, what's Washington's reaction?

"Pathetic" would be kind.

There will evidently be a commission to study this disaster, but as we saw with the 9/11 commission, even solid recommendations are usually ignored by one or both parties with little hope of action.

And Lindsey Graham, who has usually been the top Republican on the issue, thinks that the disaster in the Gulf is a cry for a "smaller" clean energy and climate change bill?

Smaller? This is what is so disgustingly wrong with Washington, and it's up to us to send a message.

Smaller? No way. This is a rallying cry to long-needed action.

Start by watching this:

And then go here and sign a letter to President Obama.

There's more we can all do and more we all must do but for today, it's a start.

 

 

Internet Freedom - The Fight is On

A student at an American university Googles "Tiananmen Square" from her dorm room. Among the hundreds of hits that will surface are photographs and reports stemming from the 1989 protest that followed the death of Chinese pro-democracy official Hu Yaobang. Scrolling down, she will learn that Chinese troops killed hundreds of protesters who were gathered in Tiananmen Square to voice their support for democracy and call for an end to government corruption. 

Halfway around the world, when a Chinese student sits down at her computer and conducts the same Google search, her results will tell a much different story about Tiananmen Square. She will not find information about the massacre that occurred in 1989. Instead, she will view photos depicting this beautiful plaza and learn that Tiananmen Square is the largest city square in the world. 

This example demonstrates the great divide between Internet users in the United States and users in China, Iran, Eqypt, Venezuela, Russia and other nations that censor access to information on the web. These governments say they restrict Internet freedom to protect their citizens and combat problems such as pornography, terrorism and hate speech. These problems are real, but as Secretary of State Clinton recognized in her speech on Internet freedom, "these challenges must not become an excuse for governments to systematically violate the rights and privacy of those who use the internet for peaceful political purposes." 

Last December, Google reportedly became aware that its networks, as well as the networks of 20 other companies, were the target of Chinese hackers. Google further determined that its Gmail accounts were not secure and that human rights activists in China were being targeted. According to published reports, those events proved to be the last straw for Google, which has struggled to maintain its delicate relationship with the Chinese government since its decision in 2006 to offer a censored version of its search engine there. Though Google has always known that government censorship would be a key condition for tapping into China's lucrative market, the company had hoped its investment might lead to a more open society. Instead, China has continued to enforce a parallel, closed Internet system that conflicts with the core values of Google and many of the global companies that continue to operate in China. When the Chinese government refused to work with Google to address these important human rights concerns, Google apparently concluded it had no option but to shut down its search operation in China. 

Last week, GoDaddy.com followed Google's example and announced that it would no longer register domain names in China. Importantly, GoDaddy made public the Chinese government's insistence that it receive extensive user information as a condition of domain name registration. It also announced that China's demands for user information had made it impossible for GoDaddy to continue to operate in China without violating its core corporate principles.

Unlike users in China, Google's users in Hong Kong enjoy unfettered Internet access -- for now. But Google's announcement that it will redirect users in China to its search engine in Hong Kong could create problems for the company's operations there. Though it remains to be seen whether China will seek to disrupt Google's services in Hong Kong, it is clear that China will not abandon its model of a closed Internet and will continue to export its model to other like minded governments with which it shares strategic and commercial ties. 

Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft have joined the Global Network Initiative, a multi-stakeholder initiative created to address threats to Internet freedom. Working closely with other GNI members, these corporate pioneers already have acknowledged publicly that Internet freedom and user privacy are important human rights that transcend political beliefs and boundaries. The Global Network Initiative offers those companies, and all companies in the ICT industry, a way to work collaboratively to devise effective strategies for resisting government threats to freedom of expression and privacy and ensuring respect for human rights in their global operations.

The stakes in this fight are clear. All ICT companies -- regardless of where they may operate today -- should care deeply about what happens to Google and GoDaddy in the months ahead. Next time, other ICT companies could be targeted by government censorship, surveillance or hacking in their operations around the world. 

In withdrawing from China, Google and GoDaddy have put a spotlight on the high stakes of the global battle for Internet freedom. For the companies, it's about market access and commercial expansion into the developing world. For both the companies and their users, it's also about the quality and integrity of the services available. This fight will require companies, investors, academics and non-governmental organizations that care about the human rights of Internet freedom and privacy, and countries around the world, to band together in support of Internet access to all, for all.

Weekly Mulch: Nuclear Plants will go up in Georgia

By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

If you were to look out to the horizon of the clean energy field right now, you would see the hazy outlines of nuclear reactors.  President Barack Obama announced this week that two new nuclear plants will go up in Georgia, built on the promise that the federal government will guarantee $8.3 billion in loans—nearly the entire estimated cost of the project.

“It is a slap in the face to environmentalists,” says Matthew Rothschild at The Progressive. “Though these will be the first nuclear reactors constructed in more than three decades, Obama still labeled them, somehow, as part of the “technologies of tomorrow.””

The president’s announcement wasn’t the only environmental downer this week. Expectations for the next international climate negotiations, to be held in Mexico at the end of 2010, are already low, and yesterday Yvo de Boer, the United Nations’ top climate negotiator, said he would step down this summer and join the private sector. To top it all off, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now faces sixteen lawsuits that would block its ability to decrease carbon emissions, including one backed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R).

A nuclear error

Although the Georgia reactors would be the first new nuclear construction in the country in decades, they mark the beginning of what the Obama administration hopes will be a shift towards nuclear energy. In the 2011 budget, President Obama proposed an expansion of the loan guarantee program that funds projects like these from $18.5 billion to $54.5 billion.

These nuclear projects deserve close scrutiny. At AlterNet, Harvey Wasserman details the problems with the Georgia reactors. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) already rejected the initial designs for the plant. That means the estimated cost could well exceed the projected $8.5 billion, which Wasserman says, was low at the start.

“Over the past several years the estimated price tag for proposed new reactors has jumped from $2-3 billion each, in some cases to more than $12 billion today,” he explains.

Risky business

In the past, energy firms like The Southern Company, the Atlanta-based group that is building the plants, could only imagine securing funding for new nuclear projects. These projects have a high risk of failure, and private investors do not dream of touching them.

Inter Press Service’s Julio Godoy reviewed several European studies on the feasibility of financing nuclear plants. One study from Citibank concluded that “the risks faced by developers … are so large and variable that individually they could each bring even the largest utility company to its knees financially,” Godoy reports. These risks include uncontrollable construction costs, long delays, and the possibility of low power prices that would not support that plants’ operation.

That’s one reason that green advocates disapprove of nuclear energy: The money could be better spent elsewhere. “People tend to think that environmentalists have some sort of allergic reaction to nuclear because they’re scared of radioactive waste and unsecured nuclear materials,” writes Aaron Wiener at The Washington Independent. “But when it comes down to it…It’s simply a bad investment to pour billions of taxpayer dollars into a nuclear sinkhole when proven technologies such as wind and solar would provide guaranteed benefits.”

Wind to fly on

While the administration lavishes attention on nuclear, other clean energy industries are trying to move forward. In Wisconsin, a Spanish company is opening up a plant to build wind turbine components, which will bring much-needed jobs to the Milwaukee area, as Kari Lydersen reports for Working In These Times.

There’s always the threat, however, that gains like this will be rolled back by competition from China. Clean energy jobs can still be sent overseas, Lydersen points out. She argues that the United State could be providing a boost to the solar and wind industry in order to keep jobs here.

“Manufacturing in the United States could be driven both with incentives to the actual producers – like the tax break to Ingeteam [the Spanish company building the Wisconsin plant] and support for renewable energy through renewable energy portfolio (RPS) standards and other incentives,” she writes.

China as competition

From a purely environmental perspective, China’s headway into green technology is not a problem. Mother JonesKevin Drum reminds us that the whole world can benefit from advances in clean energy, wherever they happen. Climate change is, after all, a global crisis. But Drum concedes that fear of Chinese competition does serve some purpose:

“I’ve lately become more receptive to the idea that, for better or worse, the only way to get Americans to take this stuff seriously is to kick it old school and start hauling out that old time Cold War evangelism,” he says. “Frame green tech as a matter of vital economic and national security superiority over the Reds and quit worrying overmuch about whether that’s really technically accurate. Just figure that it’s close enough, it’s language everyone understands, and it’ll do a better job of motivating development than a couple hundred more PowerPoints about receding glaciers.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

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