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Armenia: The oligarchs are eating the forest: SIGN THE PETITION!

May 1, 2012

Vast areas of Armenia formerly forested are now without trees. Source: Armenian Tree Project

Rampant deforestation: Armenia, located in the Caucuses Mountains Eurasia, has lost a large portion of its forests in recent decades.  In 1990, 30 percent of land was forested. Now forest covers less than 7 percent of Armenia. Logging, much of it illegal, is being carried out on a large scale — the wood being used for home heating (natural gas increasingly expensive) and export.

The Teghut mine: One of the best preserved areas of old growth trees, the Teghut forest, located in the nation’s north, is now threatened. The Armenian government has approved a major  copper and molybdenum mine in the Teghut region that will have a devastating and irreversible impact on thousands of acres of old forest, grassland, endangered plants and animals, and natural resources.  If your time is limited sign the petition here and now! If you want more info keep reading.

As shown in the photo of the logs below, clear cutting of the Teghut forest has already begun for the mine. Excavation will leave a massive open pit — 600 meters deep — with the overburden and tailings dumped into surrounding valleys (similar to mountain-top removal). The government has allocated nearly 5,000 acres to the mining company, of which about 4,000 are forested and the remaining nearly 2,000 acres are are community lands.

Economic and health impacts: The project will also have many adverse impacts on the two villages in the area, Teghut and Shnogh and traditional village economies. Toxic drainage from the mine, tailings and sediment ponds will likely contaminate ground and surface water critical for domestic use and irrigation. The deforestation is likely to result in massive soil erosion, landslides, the clogging of streams and loss of agricultural lands and a major step backwards with regard to sustainable development.

Benefits? According to project’s Environmental Impact Statement, the ore in the mine is worth more than $20 billion. Only a paltry 1 or 2 % of this wealth would benefit the public assets of the nation. (Footnote).  The big winners — the Armenian Copper Programme, part of a larger conglomerate, Vallex.

The mine company, Vallex, has promised about 1000 jobs to people in the area. Given, dire poverty and high unemployment rates, many village residents support the mine – even though the pay is low and the will last only until the ore runs out in 20 years or thereabouts. However, residents of the area are beginning to get a taste of their future with the mine. First development process is producing clouds of dust. Secondly, several people were beaten by Vallex security guards. As a result residents blocked the road to the mine area for several days until the company fired the culpable guards.

 Growing opposition to corruption and oligarchy: In Armenia an increasingly militant coalition–n has sprung up to fight the project. There is also a growing to the mine project in Armenian Diaspora – here and other in countries. Organizations in Armenia and Europe have also raised critical issues with regard to governance. In the case of Teghut, government officials were charged with embezzlement after selling massive volumes of wood and pocketing the equivalent of $12,000 (U.S).

But the issue is far bigger.  The government’s approval of the mining permit was granted without public involvement, without transparency and in violation of numerous laws and international agreements (e.g. protection of forests).  For more information go to the post on the Armenian Environmental Network (AEN) blog. For a good description of the government corruption and collusion on environmental issues see the excellent report by the Policy Forum of Armenia.   Ekos-Squared previously reported on similar rule of law issues  with regard to the commercial kiosks being built in  a Yerevan (capital of Armenia) public park. Nearly every Armenian, I’ve talked to has told of rampant corruption and the rule of a small number of oligarchical families that control major developments of natural resources.

Finally: It is essential to stop the growing trend for money to influence government decisions not only in Armenia but right here in America.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION

What’s at stake (left) and what Vallex and the Armenian Government plan (right).  

From the Teghut Defense Group: Pasture, and Forest
Source: http://www.armenianweekly.com/2011/08/26/toxicity/

An existing open pit Sotk gold mine; mining may affect Lake Sevan.
Source: http://www.armenianow.com/sites/default/files/img/imagecache/600x400/sotk-gold-mine-armenia.jpg


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The Armenia Connection: As readers may know, my wife Claudia and I spent two weeks (last Sep/Oct) in Armenia visiting my son Yevgeniy Cole who is serving as a Peace Corps volunteer there.   We saw quite a bit of the country, got to meet with many people in the Capital Yerevan including environmentalists, villagers, shop owners and more. Being an unabashed eco-hugger; I was immediately drawn into the issues including deforestation and waste disposal. I now serve as a member of the Advisory Board of the Armenian Environmental Network. Our trip included a visit to the Armenian Tree Project’s nursery in Karen.  ATP has planted nearly 4 million trees in rural areas, villages and cities since 1994.

Essays for Earth Day

April 21, 2012

An Earth Day Reminder: It’s Not About Bad People

Guest Essay by Ben Ross

The original article appeared in Dissent on April 18, 2012; it is  re-posted here with permission from its author Benjamin Ross. For the full essay go here. 

Ben Ross, scientist, activist, author; advocate for environmental health. Source: http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6061/6054758183_688a4baedd.jpg

In a world where so much power is concentrated in the hands of a wealthy few, it’s always tempting to pin the blame for whatever goes wrong on the moral failings of the powerful. Earth Day, coming up this Sunday, offers a useful reminder that the problem—as leftists used to say—is not bad people, but a bad system. The first Earth Day was made necessary forty-two years ago not by the polluters’ evil intentions, but by a political philosophy that was as sincerely held as it was destructive. That ideology has returned today, and it threatens to wreak environmental damage on a scale even greater than half a century ago.

Industry Leaders: The chemical industry was led, for the most part, by men who wanted to protect the air they breathed and the water they drank. There were, to be sure, business leaders—among them manufacturers of lead, asbestos, and cigarettes—who consciously profited from disease and suffering. But their influence was not decisive. What stymied the effort to control chemical pollution in the half-century before Earth Day, as I wrote about in The Polluters, was the industry’s political beliefs. A deep-seated hostility to government interference in the conduct of business led it to fiercely resist government regulation of its pollution.

Opposing regulation: Lammot du Pont, whose firm then dominated the chemical business, told his executives in 1938 to give air and water pollution the same attention as fire safety. This was a clear and strong directive at DuPont, a company that had grown up making explosives. But at the same time the du Ponts were financing the American Liberty League, the center of far-right opposition to the New Deal. Their conviction that government had no right to tell businesses what to do inspired uncompromising opposition to federal control of water pollution. They won that battle in 1940, when the Senate killed a House-passed bill requiring federal licenses for new pollution sources.

Du Pont’s division managers were judged by their ability to earn profits and conquer new markets. In a marketplace where competitors were free to cut corners, this gave them every incentive to join the race to the bottom.

Recent times: The legislation of the 1970s, propelled by a wave of activism that peaked on Earth Day, brought federal pollution controls into being at last. But since then progress has been slow and uneven. And today the ideology of the Liberty League has come back, dominating the House of Representatives and a major political party.

The entire earth is now at risk from new pollutants—drugs, hormones, globe-warming gases—whose effects are more subtle than the poisons of the 1930s and 1960s but no less alarming. For these dangers to be brought under control, a central lesson of the first Earth Day must be relearned. The greatest threat to our environment does not come from intentional misdeeds, but from the unthinking hatred of government that has come to pervade our political discourse.

The DuPont plant Monday in Belle, W.Va. Federal officials in 2010 investigated a series of leaks that shut down the chemical plant and resulted in the death of one worker from phosgene exposure. Source: http://media.cleveland.com/business_impact/photo/dupont-problems-6be73b3d91f078de_large.jpg

MY RESPONSE: 

Get the Book:  First, for readers who want to get a detailed historical description of the chemical industry and its impact on the environment, public policy and science, I highly recommend The Polluters, by Ben Ross and Steve Amter.  This book is based on meticulous research as well as the authors’ long earned insights as environmental scientists. I found the sections on the attempts of the chemical industry to manipulate the science on the toxicity of chemicals especially compelling. Nor is the book simply history; it provides valuable lessons about today’s efforts by industry to obliterate the regulatory role of government.

Unthinking?  The essay by Ross ends with the following: “The greatest threat to our environment does not come from intentional misdeeds, but from the unthinking hatred of government that has come to pervade our political discourse.”  I am not going to weigh in on the subject of “intentional misdeeds.” However, I want to dig a bit deeper on what Ross calls the “unthinking hatred of government.”  In my view the leaders of Big Energy, Big Finance and Big Chem et al. don’t really hate government. They just want a more corporate-friendly government — one that will continue to provide support, i.e. bailouts,  “free trade” agreements (that have destroyed American jobs), but one that will view environmental destruction with a “nod and a wink” (fracking a good example). To accomplish their goal they (e.g. Koch Brothers, Rove, Paul Ryan) have helped to create a very loud and effective anti-government discourse that Ross describes.

The BP Oil spill two years ago. A cozy relationship between Department of Interior regulators and oil companies.

The “Thousand Friends of Corporate America” know exactly what they’re up to. These folks use the budget deficit as an excuse to cut everything that is good for the of Americans including education, safety nets, Social Security, Medicare, environmental protection, desperately needed infrastructure projects, and the like. Yet they want to keep all of the tax loopholes and subsidies in place. Nor do they mind a tax system which generously provides a 15% tax rate on the dividends of the wealthy while workers pay a rate that is twice as high. Nor do the same forces mind abolishing or the rights of workers to bargain collectively (ala GOP Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker). Government of the corporations, for the corporations and by the corporations is what they are after.

Finally, Kochs, Roves and Norquists while ensuring that government doesn’t work very well, exploit public frustration with government to render it even less effective.

There is however an “unthinking” part. Those who extract the wealth of resources for their own benefit seem not be think much about the effects actions on the good earth and its denizens.

Join the dialogue: We invite your comments.

Dr. Jim Yong Kim: Obama’s great pick for World Bank Chief. Can he turn the ship around?

April 10, 2012

Dr. Jim Yong Kim, with the President and Secretary of State
Source: Financialpress.com

Who is Jim Kim?  President Obama’s pick to head the World Bank, is Dr. Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-born American, and  President of Dartmouth College. Kim is a great choice. He’s an outsider – not one of the big-finance moguls and Washington insiders that have run the show at the World Bank. Dr. Kim is a physician but also earned a Ph.D. in anthropology at Harvard. In fact, his principal expertise lies in the field of public health especially in poor nations.

He has also has first hand knowledge of the desperate needs of the poor, both in terms of economics and medical care. Although  member nations have to vote (there is some reticence to appoint yet another American), he is likely to be elected. Dr. Kim’s as co-founder of Partners In Health (PIH) pioneered efforts to bring high quality health care to extremely poor nations including Haiti, Peru, Rwanda, and Lesotho. Partners’ aim is not merely to deliver care, but to build the capacity of such nations to do so. As head of the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS program, Kim launched the 3 by 5 Initiative,  which provided life saving AIDS drugs to 3 million people in the mid 2000’s.

There is another reason to be pleased. The man has great spirit, a true Renaissance person, who found a way to combine his medical degree and his passion for anthropology in the service of humanity.  To get a first hand glimpse click on

Space rapper Kim on stage at Dartmouth

this video: http://roadtripnation.com/JimYongKim.

Finally, the man has a sense of humor, is a space rapper and can dance!!!! See the action here.

A challenge to the World Bank paradigm?  The World Bank’s historical approach to investment can be summed up as follows:  (1) top-down (2) bigger is better (3) small is inefficient (4) GDP growth is everything.  As evident from Kim’s writings, he doesn’t buy it. Here are a few quotes:

  • The studies in this book present evidence that the quest for growth in GDP and corporate profits has in fact –worsened the lives of millions of women and men.”  From Dying for Growth.  
  •  “…I recognize that economic growth is vital to generate resources for investment in health, education and public goods. Every country must follow its own path to growth, but our collective mission must be to ensure that a new generation of low and middle-income countries enjoys sustainable economic growth that generates opportunities for all citizens.”  (Recent piece published by Administration with Kim’s nomination).

Dr. Jim Yong Kim with children in Uganda. Source Partners in Health

I would put it this way:  Economic growth is not enough; it’s the nature of growth and investment that counts. There is a big difference between a local market economy providing for community needs, and an invasive corporate economy that extracts resources and capital, degrades the environment and tramples traditional economies and culture. 

Land grabs and coal power: Although the Bank repeatedly pledges to address poverty and curb environmental threats, it continues to invest in projects that have the opposite effect. For example, a recent report by the U.S.-based Oakland Institute implicates the World Bank Group in the promotion of “land grabs” — especially in Africa — by large institutional investors. The acquisitions fail to deliver on promises, and instead are forcing thousands of  purchases of land, often by large institutional investors, are mainly unregulated, produce few of the promised benefits to local people, and “instead are forcing thousands of small farming communities off ancestral land, creating serious food insecurity and driving environmental destruction.” In addition, the Bank has recently funded environmentally degrading projects such as a coal burning power plant in Kosovo and one in South Africa

Healing:  As a medical doctor, Jim Yong Kim took the Hippocratic Oath, “to do no harm.” If he is true to the oath, he will take immediate steps to stop such destructive investments. We also hope that he will undertake the difficult task of redirecting the Bank’s investment strategies to promote  development that is locally-based, culturally compatible,  and ecologically sustainable. This approach encourages  entrepreneurialism and economic development that provides jobs and strengthens community.

 

Micro-loans to poor rural Mexicans enable aspiring entrepreneurs and provide a secure place for their savings. Source: Global Giving http://cloud.globalgiving.org

Examples of this approach are micro-loans to support local agricultural and local production businesses. For example, the Grameen Bank which provides micro-loans to local businesses in poor areas, is perhaps a good model for the World Bank. (See this wonderful speech by the founder and outgoing head of Grameen and Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus explaining the history of this amazing venture).

The World Bank: Huge, imposing, complex dominates west side downtown Washington, DC
Think Big http://backoffice.diverseeducation.com/img/photos/biz/012610_World_Bank.jpg

To close,  let’s hope that Kim is not too humble to challenge the Bank’s ingrained top-down approach to investment. It’s a big ship to turn around.


The Republican Budget: Prosperity for whom? On Wisconsin — Walker’s wobbly job numbers

April 3, 2012

Part 1: Paul Ryan’s budget passes the House: Last week, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives passed Paul Ryan’s $3.53 trillion budget plan.  The vote was 228-191 vote—no Democrats supported it and only ten Republicans voted against the measure.The bill has little chance of passing in the Democratically controlled Senate.  Ryan is a Republican from the First District of Wisconsin located in the southeastern part of the state. He is now in his 7th term in the House despite his youthful appearance.  Republicans must love this guy, he is now one of the front runners as the party’s Vice Presidential candidate.  But as far as delivering jobs to his district, he looks .. vulnerable (see part 2 below).

GOP's Paul Ryan, Representative First District in southeast Wisconsin. Whose prosperity is he talking about?

What’s in the budget? Even though the Ryan budget is dead on arrival (DOA) at the Senate, it is critical to know the basics. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) touted the House-passed Ryan Plan as a “real vision” of what Republicans would do if they haled control of the federal government. Voters should be aware ofthis intention as Election Day 2012 approaches.

As the details of the budget emerged, it has become clear that the Ryan budget will not benefit the 99%, will not strengthen our nation’s economy, and will hurt the poor.

The Washington Post of  March 20 editorial is entitled, ‘Paul Ryan’s dangerous, and intentionally vague budget plan.”  “Mr. Ryan proposes a budget path that would leave government unable to fulfill essential functions. As Mr. Ryan wants to increase defense spending, there would be essentially nothing left for the rest of government — nothing for education, for highways, for veterans, for low-income families, for the FBI.” (underline added). “

New York  Times editorial on the same day  puts it this way, the Ryan Budget “is one where the rich pay less in taxes than the unfairly low rates they pay now, while programs for the poor — including Medicaid and food stamps — are slashed and thrown to the whims of individual states. Where older Americans no longer have a guarantee that Medicare will pay for their health needs. Where lack of health insurance is rampant, preschool is unaffordable, and environmental and financial regulation are severely weakened.”

The Center for American Progress adds: “The latest House Republican budget plan asks low-income and middle-class Americans to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while simultaneously delivering massive tax breaks to the richest 1 percent and preserving huge giveaways to Big Oil. It’s a recipe for repeating the mistakes of the Bush administration, during which middle-class incomes stagnated and only the privileged few enjoyed enormous gains.”

Cartoon: Captain Walker throws public workers overboard. However, he may soon have to walk thttp://www.wisconsinsfuture.org/he (electoral) plank himself! Source:

Part 2: The Wisconsin Connection:  Paul Ryan is up for reelection in November.  And Governor Scott Walker along with four Republican Senators will face a tough recall elections against Democratic challengers in June.  It is important to draw the connection between Ryan and Walker because both have put forth budgets and that will throw safety net programs, education, public safety, and environmental regulation under the bus, while doling out tax breaks tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy. According to the state’s non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (see recap), the tax cuts would diminish the state’s revenues by $2.3 billion over ten years, the reduction made up by reducing programs vital to the public.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

Job Growth, Feeble:  One of Walker’s campaign signs: “Wisconsin, Open for Business.”  But does it work? As the following graph shows.  The numbers in Wisconsin don’t look very good at all. Here are three graphs featured in an article by  Wisconsin’s leading newspaper the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel — all of which belie Walker’s campaign pledge to create 250,000 new jobs in Wisconsin. The job loss shown for Wisconsin is especially lame when compared with other Midwestern states and the nation as a whole. As far as Ryan’s own job numbers — nothing to write home about. His home city of Janesville, has an unemployment rate of 10.3% and his county Rock, has an unemployment rate of 9.7. Moreover, the two other large cities in his District Racine and Kenosha have unemployment rate of 12.3 % and 9.9 % respectively (February 2012 data from Bureau of Labor Statistics, Seasonally adjusted, See Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s Press Release of March 28, 2012)

Wisconsin under Walker -- worst job performance in the nation. Losses in red at right. Click to enlarge. Source: Journal Sentinel, Craig Gilbert, March 15, 2012.

A comparison of job creation among Midwestern states during Walker's term.
Source: Craig Gilbert, Journal Sentinel, March 15, 2012using Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Click to enlarge.

Job growth comparison, Wisconsin versus U.S. as a whole. Source: Journal-Sentinel, Craig Gilbert, March 15, 2012, Revised U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

We note that a recent press release by the Walker Administration, touts a modest job gain for the state. However, don’t be fooled. The most recent data as revised by the Bureau Data (March 30, 2012) shows a job loss of more of 17,200 jobs from Feb. 2011 to Feb. 2012 for the state. (See Table).  Not much to brag about, especially given the positive job growth for the U.S. as a whole during the same picture. Pretty nervy of Mitt Romney to come to Wisconsin and blast President Obama’s positive job growth as a failure. Apparently folks like Romney and Walker are not constrained by the facts.

 

Employment data over past year using most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data (March 30, 2012 release): http://www.bls.gov/news.release/laus.nr0.htm

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Education and Jobs: Apparently folks like Walker and Ryan don’t understand the connection between education and quality jobs.  Maybe they think that laying off teachers, increasing class size or cutting back on arts, etc. will make Wisconsin an attractive place for families with school-aged kids and companies that want to attract professionals? (Or is that the 1% don’t really need public schools?).

   

SUMMER IN MARCH– RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURES AND $4.00 GAS: Some explanations. And Bernie Sanders has a plan.

March 26, 2012

RECORD BREAKING HEATWAVE: CLIMATE CHANGE AT WORK? 

Northampton Beach, NH on March 22, 2012
Are you kidding me?
Source: Accuweather

Thousands of Records Fall: Since March 12, more than 7,000 warm temperature records (warm daily highs and warm overnight lows) have been set or tied, including numerous all-time monthly high temperature records from the High Plains to the East Coast, and north into Canada.  Dr. Jeff Masters co-founder of Weather Underground  summarizes the situation as follows:

“The most incredible spring heat wave in U.S. and Canadian recorded history is finally drawing to a close today, after a 10-day stretch of unprecedented record-smashing intensity. Since record keeping began in the late 1800s, there have never been so many spring temperature records broken, and by such a large margin. .. The 85°F measured at Western Head, Nova Scotia  (March 22) was the third warmest temperature ever recorded in Canada in March, according to Environement Canada. … Michigan’s all-time record for March warmth was toppled on Wednesday, when the mercury hit 90°F at Lapeer. The intensity of the Summer in March, 2012 heat wave are simply off-scale… one of the most extraordinary weather events in recorded history. For additional information on the “Summer in March.” Go to Jeff Masters’ Blog. 

What explains the “Summer in March?” The NOAA satellite photo ( March 21) below shows a large area of mostly clear skies over the eastern third of the nation. The warm condition over this enormous region was caused was a very slow moving weather system known as a ‘blocking high.” See Satellite photo.  In such high pressure systems, the outflow at the surface causes (arrows) causes air to sink and sinking air becomes warmer and drier and clouds are suppressed.  The bright sunshine and southerly wind flow over much of the area also raises temperatures. The comma shaped band of clouds represents a slow moving low pressure system and front that is now bringing relief and rain to the eastern U.S.

March heat wave caused by a blocking high pressure system in East & Midwest. Yellow arrows show wind directions. Date of NOAA Source:http://www.climatecentral.org/

Role of global warming and climate change. This event (now coming to a close) is the latest in a series of weather events that are way beyond the normal variation typical of global climate.  Texas is experiencing one of its worst droughts in history with many areas running out of water. Moscow in summer 2010 experienced worst heat in recorded history — coupled with uncontrollable fires and smog. And don’t forget the high frequency of unusually severe tornadoes that destroyed dozens of communities across the south.

 For the consensus view of scientists on the relationship between climate change and weather extremes, visit this link.

Also, for the best overview of global warming see this video: James Hansen on TED.

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WHY THE NEAR $4.00 GAS?  The feverish atmosphere nonetheless,  high placed politicos (mostly Republican) are attempting to reap political points on driver outrage over rising gas prices. Without any basis in fact, they blame President Obama for the rising gas prices because he wants to make sure that offshore drilling is safer and wants to follow the law on having a valid environmental impact statement before giving a green light to the Keystone Pipeline project. He is also mindful that lots of ranchers and farmers in the Great Plains don’t want the pipeline anywhere near the Ogalala Aquifer or their ranches. So Obama’s approach is more balanced and emphasizes renewable energy and efficiency (e.g cars). But this doesn’t satisfy the “drill it all no matter what crowd.

Somethings askew with the messages: First, it turns out, there is more drilling for natural gas and oil going on now than at any time during the Bush Administration. Secondly, U.S. demand for gasoline is not going up it’s going down! Thanks mainly to the increasing efficiency of cars being driven in the U.S. according to leading experts such as Daniel Yergin. (See recent NPR piece.)

So the GOP / Big Oil charges seem unfounded. In fact recent spikes in gasoline prices don’t correlate well with the usual supply and demand factors either in the U.S. (See US Demand chart bottom of post ) or global demand for oil (See Global Demand Table bottom of post). So what’s going on? And by the way, don’t blame your local gas station franchise; they have to pay the price for gasoline driven by crude oil prices — and when the wholesale prices spike so do the retail prices — both can happen within days. This gives us the clue — what can change faster than Clark Kent in a phone booth? A stock market on steroids!

Buying and selling oil futures on the NY Mercantile Exchange. They make the commissions, who makes the profits?

The Oil Speculators: There is growing evidence that the recent peaks in gas prices have little to do with traditional supply and demand but are being fueled by speculators — the Wall Street guys. By buying up huge volumes of oil futures stocks, the big investors drive up the price of oil and then profit when their holdings are big enough — never mind the damage done to most people, and to the fragile economic recovery.

See the CBS Sixty-Minutes piece (2008) which explains just how speculative investors manipulate the oil futures commodity market.

To see a very funny piece showing how speculators can drive up prices link to this video which uses clips from the wonderful film Trading Places. 

BERNIE SANDERS TAKES ACTION TO CONTROL OIL SPECULATORS: When it comes to standing up for the majority of Americans and the environment against the energy interests and Wall Street profiteers, it’s often U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (VT, Ind) who takes the lead. See our previous post.  This time around, Sanders led a group of progressive Senators to introduce a bill that would give the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) greater ability to prevent dangerous speculation on oils futures. The bill, which after its passage would give the CFTC 14 days to create regulations designed to halt excessive oil speculation, is co-sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Al Franken (D-MN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Bill Nelson (D-FL).  To continue.  See Sander’s speech on Senate floor. 


Recent gasoline trends for U.S. and East Coast locations. Source: GasBuddy. Click to enlarge.

World demand for oil over the past year -- steady or downward!
Source: International Energy Agency, http://omrpublic.iea.org/currentissues/full.pdf click to enlarge

US Gasoline demand down over past few months. Source: The Big Picture: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2012/02/what-does-declining-gasoline-consumption-mean/ click to enlarge

DC NPR Affiliate WAMU should take API’s “Vote-for Energy” promo off the air.

March 17, 2012

Jack Gerard, President & CEO American Petroleum Institute, Oil Lobby Commander and Chief.

 

Urge WAMU to remove the American Petroleum’s “Vote-4-Energy” sponsorship ads from all future broadcasts. This ad is politically charged and comes dangerously close to the electoral campaign advertisements from candidates who advocate rampant exploitation of fossil fuels regardless of their environmental costs. The ad comes dangerously close to campaign rhetoric of Republican Presidential candidates who have attacked President Obama’s more balanced stance which includes environmental protection, energy efficiency standards for cars, and renewable energy. Big Oil –thanks to the Supreme Court’s United Citizens decision — now has a virtually unlimited to fund the election campaigns of its preferred candidates. We certainly hope that WAMU is not for sale.  See the  Vote-4-Energy Website 

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SEE THE PETITION AND SIGN IT NOW:  
AND PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD
Today (March 19): I spoke with both NPR and WAMU corporate sponsorship directors; the ads are specific to NPR’s affiliate Washington DC WAMU.  So we are redirecting the petition to WAMU. I was told by NPR’s spokesperson that the American Petroleum Institute has never sponsored NPR.
The WAMU sponsorship director Anthony Hayes told me that his department checked out the promo with their legal team who said that the ad did not violate the Federal Election Commission rules. I asked Mr. Hayes whether the station had considered the ethics of allowing politically biased ads such as API’s or Monsanto’s (did you here they are saving the world). I asked about the “fairness doctrine” and if  WAMU would allow another view such as mine. Mr. Hayes replied that I had every opportunity to be an underwriter and get on the airwaves. I told him this was unfair since API has the money to get on the air multiple times each day, every day of the week. I am not in that financial position. (He laughed at this.) Stay tune; I’ll be talking to the acting Station Manager shortly.
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To show you just how insidious and outrageous this whole thing is go to Vote-4-Energy’s website.   This will take you to a map of the U.S. where you can click on your state to get information on Senators and Reps. You click on voting records and then you pick a one of the officials, I picked Ben Cardin, the Democratic and Progressive Senator from Maryland who is running for re-election.  Here is what comes up! A report card on the Senator’s voting record graded by the American Petroleum Institute (API, i.e. Big Oil).

Maryland U.S. Senate
(show committee information)
Photo
  
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D)
http://cardin.senate.gov (web)
Write This Official
Capital Address:
U.S. Senate
509 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 205100001
(202) 224-4524 (phone)
(202) 224-1651 (fax)
District Address:
Tower One
100 South Charles Street, Suite 1710M
Baltimore MD 212012725
(410) 962-4436 (phone)
(410) 962-4156 (fax)
112th Senate Key Votes
Description Preferred Position This official’s vote compared with the preferred position
Tax – Would have denied section 199 manufacturing/production, cutback foreign tax credits for dual capacity taxpayers and limited the ability of companies to take a credit for foreign taxes on oil and gas income against other types of U.S. income. N Voted AGAINST the preferred position
Environment – Prevents the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Y Voted AGAINST the preferred position
Tax – Would have denied section 199 manufacturing/production deduction, denied intangible drilling costs, denied percentage depletion, denied tertiary injectants, increased OCS royalties and cutback foreign tax credits for dual capacity taxpayers. N Voted AGAINST the preferred position
Why did Mr. Cardin get failing grades from API?  He voted (1) to allow EPA to continue regulating global warming emissions (2) to eliminate tax loopholes for energy corporations.

Great Spoof of Vote-4-Energy’s Propaganda Film here


Essay: The Wall Street Whistle Blower and the Deeper Reality, DC’s Environmental Film Festival, udate from Occupy Armenia

March 15, 2012

Goldman Sachs boss Lloyd Blankfein, "Why is everybody always pickin' on me?" Washington Post, March 15, 2012, Photo Gallery

WALL STREET ESSAY:  Thank goodness for folks like Greg Smith. He’s the guy who shocked Wall Street yesterday by resigning from Goldman Sachs. Smith’s reason — his conscience would no longer allow him to work there due to the firm’s treatment of its clients (investors who pay a brokerage fee to Goldman).  According to Smith, Goldman tried to sell troubled stocks to its clients, in order to maximize profits. Smith’s disclosure in a New York Times Op-Ed hit like a tsunami. Immediately, Goldman saw its market value shrink by $2.15 billion.

As Smith said in his op-ed, “I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all. It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as ‘muppets,’ sometimes over internal e-mail.”   To see our broader analysis click here. 

Environmental Film Festival Comes to DC: See it here.   For calendar of events click here. Some examples of the dozens of films to be shown from March 13-25, 2010.

People of a Feather:  Travel through time into the world of the Inuit on the isolated Belcher Islands in Hudson Bay in a film capturing the peril that the Sanikiluaq people are facing due to environmental and ecosystem devastation…Continue Reading, March 17, 2 PM, National Museum of the American Indian. (Free, no reservations needed).

Symphony of Soil: World Premiere Drawing on ancient knowledge and cutting edge science, Symphony of the Soil is an artistic exploration of the miraculous substance that is soil. By understanding the elaborate connections and mutuality between soil, water, the atmosphere, plants and animals, we come to appreciate the complex and dynamic nature of this precious resource. The film also examines our human relationship with soil, including the use and misuse of soil in agriculture, deforestation and development, and the latest scientific research on soil’s key role in ameliorating the most challenging environmental issues of our time. March 25, 4 PM National Museum of Natural History. Free, no reservations required.


OCCUPY COMES TO ARMENIA:  Mashtots Park – Police Move in!  The Yerevan mayor and council are allowing commercial kiosks to move into Mashtots Park, a trend that could lead to one of the capitals enduring treasures – its beautiful parks. Environmentalists and “rule of law” advocates have occupied the site and have called for the dismantling of the Kiosks, shown below. You can see from the photo why those who love the parks would protest the kiosks. We have been following this situation for several days. Last night, Armenian Time, police moved into the occupation zone to clear out the encampment of occupiers.   

RA Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan stated today that the commercial stores constructed in Mashtots Park would be dismantled within the next three years. However, 3 years is a long time, perhaps, forever.  The occupiers are now planning to march to the government building. They have collected more than 10,000 signatures on a petition urging the city to dismantle the kiosks. To see more go to this link. 

Why the kiosks don't fly with those who love Yerevan's parks.http://bit.ly/zWaAHC

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