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Front Page » Table of Contents » Energy Costs & Policies

By Bob Hooper on December 6, 2011

A man said to the Universe, "Sir, I exist!" "However," replied the Universe, "the fact has not created in me a sense of obligation." -- Stephen Crane (1871-1900)

A reader asked me to write about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, now postponed until 2013.

The 36-inch diameter pipe would cover 329 miles in Canada, cross the border at Montana, angle through South Dakota and Nebraska (with a branch to Illinois). Photo shows truck hauling 36-Inch pipe to build Keystone-Cushing Pipeline south-east of Peabody, Kansas, 2010 (from WIkipedia).

Then it would slice across the eastern third of Kansas through Oklahoma to Texas -- over 2,100 miles in all. The estimated 1.1 million barrels daily of synthetic crude oil from Alberta tar sands would equate to 5 pct. of present U.S. oil consumption, and 9 pct. of our present imports.

Estimates of new jobs vary wildly. Promoters say 250,000. Skeptics say as few as 4,000--most temporary. The environmental degradation to Canada would be (and already is) dramatic. Leaks are a constant worry. If 97 percent of climate scientists have it right, continued fossil fuel burning is a bigger threat. Those who've read my columns know I'm convinced scientists are correct.

But there's an underlying and larger issue: the deception of free market capitalism. It isn't free. It's cracked, and the crack is growing.

Read more of this post here ...

By Ken Poland on August 2, 2011

Our Congress has worked around the clock to protect the wealthy at the expense of the lowest economic sector of our nation. We ambushed Saddam Hussein on the pretext of democracy, but the truth is Iraq has oil and we want it.

The battles in the mid east are over oil and protection or destruction of one nation, Israel. The Israelies and the Arabs have been at it since early Old Testament times.

Somalia has only starving people. What is in it for us? No oil! No glory in supposedly saving God's chosen people. Why in the world should we be concerned about a few starving mistreated people who don't have the means to help themselves?

Read more of this post here ...

By Bob Hooper on October 12, 2010

Dr. Robert Musil held his hand palm down, just over knee high. "This is where global warming ranks in today's political dialog.." He brought his hand head high. "What's here?" From the 50 people gathered at Cafe Semolino in Hays, Kansas, last month came the quick response: "Jobs! The economy."

Speaking without a script, Musil sometimes rambled. But his three-part thesis was clear: (1) global warming is an international concern (2) ordinary citizens should not be sideline spectators, but demand timely progress (3) success requires persistence. Don't give up.

For Musil the fact of global warming is just that--a fact. No show of hands, but I'm guessing those present were mostly in agreement. A handful of students, surely there for extra-credit, got glassy-eyed at times. Too low-tech, I suppose.

The focus soon sharpened to what efficiency might accomplish: turning thermostats down, swapping out incandescent bulbs, remembering to switch off the lights or turn off the TV when nobody's in the room. A gentleman perched on a stool toward the back spoke up. Eating less meat, he said, would reduce demand on fossil fuel. Fattening livestock is not fossil fuel efficient. There were some grimaces and squirms at shorting ourselves on t-bones, or even burgers. Surely some cattle ranchers were present, too. Americans not only like their creature comforts but generally feel entitled.

Read more of this post here ...

By Bruce Fealk on June 13, 2010

Van Jones, who spent a short time as President Obama’s green jobs advisor, and who is currently serving as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and as a policy advisor at Green for All took a few minutes to answer some questions before he spoke to about 500 progressive activists in Lansing on Saturday.

During the interview, Jones was asked a broad range of questions. Jones still has contacts in Michigan, including Andy Levin and Governor Granholm. He said that in Washington D.C. Governor Granholm is seen as the gold standard of an industrial belt governor that really sees this clean energy opportunity and is going for it.

When asked about Governor Bobby Jindal’s recent press conference regarding the BP oil spill and the loss of jobs being caused by President Obama’s temporary moratorium on new deep water drilling, Jones responded,

“I think we have obviously a lot to grieve at this point. We have eleven workers who lost their lives because a foreign corporation came to the United States, corrupted our government, slagged up our coastline, killed eleven workers through criminal negligence and now destroyed a precious ecosystem and economy, a big chunk of America’s beauty has been destroyed because of this one company."

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By Mikyung Lim on June 12, 2010

Why is everything happening all together? The almost-collapse of car industry, the meltdown of housing and financial markets, health care and financial reforms, BP oil spill and the aftermath, all of which has directed public attention to the appalling role of lobbyists and interest politics on US politics and economy. Are these some kind of prophecy telling the public that this is the time for America to wake up and do a comprehensive overhaul of her whole structure if she wants to safely navigate and survive in modern times? “

Recently, a renowned actor, Robert Redford, produced a video, “The Fix: Robert Redford Reflects on the Gulf Oil Disaster,” and stated on Big Oil in his Huff Post blog post as below.

“As I try to convey in my new video, 'The Fix,' I am appalled by what this spill is doing to Gulf fishermen, families, communities and wildlife. But I am also disgusted by what it reveals about the oil industry’s role in American political life … With their deep pockets, oil companies have purchased loose safety regulations, slack oversight and support from key lawmakers. Last year alone, the industry spent a $168 million on lobbying — $16 million of which came from BP. The blowout on the Deepwater Horizon is a symptom of this undue influence.”

Read more of this post here ...

By Mikyung Lim on May 30, 2010

The Earth has undergone several mass extinctions of living species since its creation. I remember an old article of Time magazine asserting that, since the beginning of human civilization, “Climate Change” is the most dire crisis of human existence, more dangerous than any wars that human has fought, any natural disasters that human has encountered, or any epidemics that killed many of us throughout history.

Since the late 2008, we have undergone the most severe economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s: crisis with health care system and the meltdowns of housing market and financial sector. These are tragic social, political problems that we have encountered cyclically but can be solved depending on what kind of politicians voters chose to put in power. But none of these problems are as fundamental as the current challenge posed by “the Crisis of Climate Change.”

Sadly, poor people always seem to be the targets of natural or man-made disasters or any kind of misfortunes. For example, recent political history showed that health care crisis, housing market meltdown, recession and unemployment hit the less privileged, poor people hardest while the rich always seem to find ways to avoid any kind misfortunes. Even “Global Warming” is expected to hit the poorest people in poor or developing countries or those in the United States of America instead of rich people, rich countries.

Read more of this post here ...

By Weeden Nichols on May 13, 2010

A couple of meetings ago, the speaker at our local Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) chapter meeting was a state VVA official, who briefed us on VVA affairs at the state and national level. One of the matters mentioned was the possibility being discussed at the national level, of “retooling” the organization for a new mission so that the organization could continue to exist after most of the old Vietnam veterans had died off. I spoke in response to this point. I mentioned, in essence, that I have been an observer of organizations for my entire adult life. I stated that it has been my observation that, at a certain point in their existences, most organizations turn considerable energy and resources toward perpetuating themselves. I opined that the world is full of organizations and that most of them came into existence for a purpose. I suggested that they ought to devote all their energies and resources to fulfilling their (presumably legitimate) purposes, and then go gracefully out of existence when their former purpose was either fulfilled or overtaken by events, there being no shortage of organizations. I gave as an example The Grand Army of the Republic, the organization of Union veterans of the Civil War. They had a purpose, other than merely fraternal. (They gave us Memorial Day, for example.) When most of the Union veterans had died off, though, they declared the 1949 National Encampment at Indianapolis to be the final encampment. They knew when to “turn out the lights” and so should we.

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By Bob Hooper on April 25, 2010

Pontius Pilate asked, "What is truth?" It is always a good question.

For several columns, I have done my journalistic best to explain that climate scientists overwhelmingly agree: Our planet is warming. Humans are mostly to blame. We would be wise to take that seriously.

I have explored motivations of those advancing a different view: the fossil fuels industry, and those who oppose all government regulation as anti-capitalist. In short, those who want to privatize the profits and socialize the costs. It's an old story.

We know about the campaigns of the tobacco industry. Two more recent issues are whether cell phones can cause brain tumors, and whether high fructose corn syrup is a bigger factor than sugar in Type II diabetes. Both products are profitable--at least in the short term, by the short view, for those who sell them. Independent research will predictably be opposed by manufacturers and distributors--just as climate change science is fought today. Money talks.

But there's also a brand of religion which sees science more as a threat to comfortable dogma than an ally in facing sometimes uncomfortable truths.

Read more of this post here ...

By Bob Hooper on April 13, 2010

“For the past 150 years, industrial civilization has been dining on the energy stored in fossil fuels, and the bill has come due. Yet, we have sat around the dinner table denying that it is our bill, and doubting the credibility of the man who delivered it. The great economist John Maynard Keynes famously summarized all of economic theory in a single phrase: ‘There is no such thing as a free lunch.’ And he was right. We have experienced prosperity unmatched in human history. We have feasted to our hearts’ content. But the lunch was not free.” Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, in Merchants of Doubt Bloomsbury Press c2010

As a youth I worked in the oil patch. There was this quip about someone too dumb to pour pee out of a boot even if he read the directions on the heel. So... you who can (without directions on the heel) pour pee from a boot: Why don't you get it that failing to responsibly regulate capitalism doesn't make for a free lunch? There are often costs to our environment, our health, and our pocketbooks.

Read more of this post here ...

By Diane Wahto on April 11, 2010

My dad worked in the lead mines in Southeast Kansas in the 1940s. My family lived in the middle house of three small, unpainted houses. One uncle and his family lived on one side of us. My aunt and her family lived in the house to the west of us. The men went down the street to work in the mine every morning and returned every night. The recent coal mine disaster in West Virginia brought back thoughts of my dad, as well as of the men and women who go underground every day to dig out the ore that keeps our economy running.


Early morning he dresses in the kitchen
while his wife brews coffee on the stove
and packs his lunch pail, spreading mayonnaise
across white bread, filling the red thermos.
The girl sits in the corner at the table.
She is six and what he calls work, she calls fear.
He puts his hard hat on and his light
and walks in the dark to the mine.
In the evening the girl waits on the steps
watching until his dirt-black face gleams
through the dusk. He is always out of sorts,
raving about what it means to be a man,
to pour his sweat and blood into this family.
The woman keeps her head down and doesn’t answer.
Late at night, her harsh voice penetrates the walls.

Now on spring days my father and I
walk around a town so small
it takes us less than an hour to cross it.
On the west side, we pass a monolith
of eroding concrete and steel,
remains of a worked-out mine.

I knew it was a mistake, your ma and me,
after six weeks, but you were on the way by then.
His voice goes funny and dry.

I catch a whiff of rust,
the seductive decay of long-extracted ore.

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