Friday Linkage 2/24/2012

A legitimate success story at the intersection of jobs, renewable energy, and good government policy is threatening to go to waste as Congress continues to play brinksmanship with the wind production tax credit.  Originally, the hope was that an extension of this critical tax credit could be attached to the extension of the payroll tax holiday.  That did not happen and considering that no other bill will be considered “must pass” before the election the production tax credit could be dead.

Not so fast my friend, as Lee Corso would say on a Saturday morning, the coalition of concerned interests has been vehement in their support and there seems to be some life left in the corpse.  The question is less about the political viability of the wind production tax credit and more about the vehicle with which to attach the bill to for passage.  In the complicated calculus of legislation in Washington D.C. tax credit bills rarely pass on their own as standalone legislations.  Therefore, a bill must be found for it to hitch a ride upon.

Considering that Congress cannot pass a budget on time most years I see little chance of this happening prior to the next Congress depending on the membership as a result of the 2012 election.  However, it all might not matter if Rick Santorum wins the presidency as the harbinger of the supposed Mayan apocalypse in December.

Room for Debate: Farm Bill—Sometimes I find the Room for Debate at the New York Times tedious, but the Farm Bill version had some interesting thoughts.  The Farm Bill is one of those pieces of legislation that affects so many people, but so few people actually pay attention to the contents.  Direct payments, long the bugaboo of many an activist, are only one part of the complex series of pieces that comprise any Farm Bill.  Heck, calling the thing the Farm Bill is disingenuous given the scope of its impact.

Pediatric Obesity Program Makes Patients Eat Doctor’s Words—The challenge when food is the prescription for better health is making sure that people actually eat the healthier food.  Changing food habits is hard and it is even harder for people at or near the poverty line for a variety of reasons—cost, lack of access, etc.  Considering the health risks facing many people at or below the poverty line that are food related, the program run by Alameda County’s Highland General Hospital in Oakland is doing the right thing: providing the right food.  Hats off to the People’s Grocery in West Oakland for lending a hand.

Which Major Corporations are Backing Heartland—The climate denier “think tank” Heartland Institute has had its bed feathered by some of the titans of American business.  Check them out and then refuse to do business with them on principle.  Not that it’s hard to avoid buying products from Altria and Diageo.

Darrell Issa is Still an Ass—One year later, countless reams of paper, and the constant exhortations of one Darrell Issa have produced absolutely zero instances of wrongdoing in regards to Solyndra, its DOE grants, and its bankruptcy.  It seems that the man who wanted to launch a thousand investigations is having a hard time finding anything wrong in the few that he has initiated.  Too bad he did not have that kind of vigor when there has been actual wrongdoing by government.  What an ass.

Putting Oil Subsidies to Work for America—Here is a novel concept: use government to direct funds in a way that benefits all Americans and provides a foundation for a better future.  I know, I know…the Republicans are already crying socialism and what not.  Too bad they do not cry socialism when it is subsidies and tax breaks for their own pet industries.

Americans Drive Less, Keep Cars Longer—Over the past few months I have linked to several stories that highlight this trend, but all of the information is here in one place.  I imagine that this is a trend that will accelerate as gas crosses the seemingly magical $4 barrier in the coming weeks.

New Enzyme Could Cut Cost of Ethanol from Waste—I struggle with ethanol.  On one hand I see the negative argument—crops destined for fuel tanks displace food crops, the net carbon equation is zero at best, etc.  On the other hand I see the positive argument—less fossil fuel use, a renewable liquid fuel for transport, etc.  If we could move beyond corn ethanol and its first generation cousins to second generation ethanol from crop waste the argument would definitely change.

Textile Recycling Thriving in New York City—Re-FashioNYC, a program that recycles textiles and provides drop boxes for collection, seems to be an unqualified success.  This is a good story to see in light of the amount of textile waste that exists in our landfills.

Cold, Snow, and Solar—If people can make solar work in Minneapolis, it can work anywhere in the United States.  Granted, the owners admit that production drops in the winter because the sun goes into hiding for a majority of the day.  Man, I am glad that I moved a little further south from the land of eternal gray.

Cheap LEDs—The bulbs may be no frills and the output in lumens will not allow it to replace a 60w incandescent, but Lemnis Lighting hitting a price point below $7 for an LED bulb represents a tipping point for the technology.  I remember a time when CFL bulbs were north of $20 and the output was less than desirable.  Now, the bulbs are commoditized and the output is on par with incandescent bulbs despite what Rand Paul or Michele Bachmann would have you believe.

Don’t Mock the Artisans—But, it’s so easy sometimes.  However, these artisans are at the forefront of modern capitalism.  Why?  Because they are the ultimate in small businesses facing a global marketplace.  By specializing down to a level that is hard to reproduce and scale, artisans are occupying a niche left open by companies with global outlook, ambitions, and supply chains.  We can pickle that.

An Early Eco-City Faces the Future—In the late-1990s, I lived in Arizona and was somewhat aware of Arcosanti, the model city of the future north of Phoenix.  The original vision seems to have been dampened over time, but is the nature of these visions. Name one commune or utopia that survived past a few years that did not alter or evolve its vision as the community matured?

Hetch Hechy’s Past and Future—As a graduate student in History, my favorite professor used to speak about the destruction of Hetch Hecthy in ways that most people reserved for serial killers and pedophiles.  He considered it just such a travesty.  I find it interesting that there is such vehement opposition to the proposal from the usually environmentally sensitive left.  Okay, I get it, Dan Lungren is usually an ass.

300 Elephants Poached in Cameroon—Just when I think the world is making progress on these issues, a slaughter like this comes to light.  It makes me question whether we are missing the vast majority of failures to stop animal slaughter in light of the minority of successes.   Have we become blind?

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One response to “Friday Linkage 2/24/2012

  1. Greetings! I really enjoyed this blog posting, especially your well-crafted writing style. However, as one opposed to draining Hetch Hetchy, let me tell you the reasoning behind it:

    First, is cost. Draining the reservoir, demolishing the dam, restoring the valley, and flooding another valley to make up the difference would cost somewhere between $5-$10 billion dollars. For that much money, how many Oceanic preserves could you create? Or state parks could you rescue? Or solar farms could you build? You could reverse decades of budget cuts at California’s Colleges and Universities, and do wonders to the K-12 budget. It’s not clear that putting such immense resources into the restoration of a single valley is worth it, regardless of one’s fondness of John Muir.

    Second, even the environmental case for removing Hetch Hetchy is unclear, as removing the dam would increase California’s carbon footprint by an estimated 900 million tons per year, because the carbon free electricity produced by Hetch Hetchy would have to be replaced, likely by PG&E. Furthermore, Hetch Hetchy is located high enough in the watershed that it’s water is gravity-delivered and thus requires no pumping, and the water is so clean it requires no filtration. This represents tremendous energy savings: 20% of all energy consumption by human activity in California goes to the movement and treatment of water. Not to mention, there’s no feasible way to replace Hetch Hetchy without flooding some other location, and whatever special habitat exists there.

    Third, Hetch Hetchy supplies water to the 2.5 million people and 33 cities across 4 counties. San Francisco residents make up less than half the service area, a fact conveniently left out by everybody who proposes draining the reservoir.

    Fourth, Hetch Hetchy is beautiful right now. I was there last September. And while Yosemite was packed like Disneyland, the trails along Hetch Hetchy provided respite from the crowds. Transforming it into another tourist trap doesn’t sound that appealing to everyone.

    Again, it’s an interesting issue, and thank you for bringing it up.

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