Who’s Up For a ‘Center for Science in the Public Interest Xtreme Eating Awards’ Diet?

November 19, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

**Written by Doug Powers

As the First Lady prepares to announce a plan to put 5,000 salad bars in schools across the nation (nothing says “this will keep you healthy” like a salad bar for runny-nosed students who are a foot-and-a-half shorter than the sneeze guard), the Center for Science in the Public Interest has announced their 2010 Xtreme Eating Awards for the most unhealthy foods you can put in your body. Some of it looks pretty darn good!

For some time now, I’ve had the notion for a diet consisting of nothing other than foods the Center for Science in the Public Interest warns us not to eat, and this might be tha catalyst to get it started.

Here’s what the CSPI’s Xtreme Eating Awards are all about:

With two out of three adults—and one out of three children—overweight or obese, you’d think that restaurants would have some interest in keeping their patrons alive and dining out longer.

With mandatory calorie labeling on the horizon for chain restaurants, you’d think that restaurants would be dropping high-calorie items from their menus.

With close to 30 percent of young Americans too heavy to join the military, you’d think that restaurants would at least stop introducing new heavyweight items.

Nope. It’s business as usual in the restaurant industry. And that means it’s business as usual around here. Welcome to our 2010 Xtreme Eating Awards.

The “get out of Iraq and Afghanistan and close Gitmo” left has been reduced to expecting everybody to believe that they’re losing sleep over people’s weight disqualifying them from joining the military? If you had “no, that’s not why” in the office pool, you win. The reason of course is that turning obesity into a national security issue gives them a weak justification for yet another government takeover — of “Big Chef” in this case.

By the way, the Xtreme Eating winners are here. More stuff to add to my bucket list.

The CSPI calls Olive Garden’s 1,030-calorie, deep-fried Lasagna Fritta appetizer “food porn.” Bow-chicka-bow-bowww… Previous CSPI “food porn” winners are “Debbie Does Donuts” and “Deep-Dish-Pizza Throat.”

As for the new diet, no, I don’t think I’ll exist completely on food the Center for Science in the Public Interest warns against, but if I did I’m willing to bet that I’d still outlive the namby-pamby nannies at the CSPI whose blood-pressure reading red lines every time they see a McDonalds Happy Meal commercial.

My kids won’t take part in the new diet either, because they have something called “parents,” and as such have little need for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

Michelle Malkin

Snyder calls for public employee cuts

November 19, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Speaking at a meeting of the Republican Governors Association in San Diego yesterday, Governor-elect Rick Snyder called cutting public employee compensation “one of the toughest things I need to do as the next governor.”

The Washington Post reports:

“You’re talking about people and their livelihoods and their families. So it’s a very serious topic. I want to do it working with them. But you have to ask two questions from a fiduciary point of view. What’s comparable with the private sector, and what’s financially affordable? And my view is I don’t believe you can check either one of those boxes today. And if you can’t check either of those boxes, we need to sit down and have a dialogue.”

Snyder went on to say that efforts to cut public employee health care and pension expenses in other states have “only scratched the surface” and noted that “some are looking at teachers first.”

Snyder was speaking on a panel titled “The GOP’s Midwest Resurgence” along with newly elected Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania.

Michigan Messenger

Little Public Support For Bowles-Simpson Deficit Reduction Plan

November 19, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that the public is, to put it mildly, very skeptical of the spending cut plan put forward by Deficit Commission Co-Chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson:

The sweeping plan put forward by President Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission last week, with its calls for deep spending cuts in sacrosanct programs as well as tax increases, has drawn howls of protest from across the political spectrum. The New York Times observed that one of the things the panel hoped to accomplish by proposing measures such as ending the home-mortgage-interest deduction was to “jar the public into recognizing the magnitude of the nation’s budget deficit and some of the drastic steps that might be needed to close it.”

The commission has at least succeeded on the “jarring” part if the results of a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, conducted Nov. 11-15, are any indication. But the outlook for convincing the public to get behind many of the proposals does not look encouraging.

Here are some of the numbers:

“The commission recommends 75 percent come from spending cuts and 25 percent come from increases in tax revenues. Spending reductions include cuts to Medicare, SocTial Security, and defense spending. The tax increases include higher gasoline taxes, lowering the corporate tax rate but limiting business tax deductions, and placing a limit on the tax deduction for homeowners with mortgages over five hundred thousand dollars.”
When it asked those surveyed what they thought, 40 percent called it a bad idea, 25 percent said it was a good idea and 30 percent had no opinion, with 5 percent undecided.

Getting more specific, the poll asked about the comfort level with cuts to Medicare, Social Security and defense spending. Seventy percent said they were very or somewhat uncomfortable with those actions, while 27 percent were somewhat or very comfortable with them. Three percent were not sure. Only 6 percent described themselves as “very” comfortable.


Fifty-nine percent were not comfortable with increasing taxes on things like gasoline and limiting the home mortgage interest deduction compared to 39 percent who were very or somewhat comfortable seeing that done. Only 10 percent were “very” comfortable. Two percent were undecided.

Public attitudes like this are going to make it very easy for politicians on both sides of the aisle to trash this proposal, or whatever it is that ultimately comes out of the commission when  it issues its report next month. In fact, that process started within days after the Bowles-Simpson draft had been released to the public.

The most distressing thing about this poll, though, is that it makes clear that the public still hasn’t gotten the message that dealing with our fiscal and economic problems is going to require sacrifices from all sides. Sacrifices will need to be made, and we’re all going to have to make them. The left is going to have to accept the fact that we cannot afford the kind of welfare and entitlement state that they’ve spent the last seventy years trying to build. the right is going to have to accept the fact that, yes, taxes are going to have to go up in some respect, especially on those most able to pay those taxes. The vast American middle is going to have to accept the fact that you can’t have your cake and eat it too, and that in the end, it’s largely their fault that we’re in this mess. They put the people in office who created this leviathan and stood by and said nothing while they spent money the government didn’t have. Now, it’s time to fix it. It’s going to be painful, but not nearly as painful as it will be if we let this continue until everything collapses for the next generation.

When the Bowles-Simpson plan was released, I raised the hope that our politicians and pundits would act like adults. It’s time for the American people to do that too.

Outside the Beltway

Calley says focus will be on strong public health policy

November 19, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Lt. Gov.-elect Brian Calley observes during a press conference

LANSING — In an exclusive interview with the Michigan Messenger, Lt. Governor-elect Brian Calley said that the incoming Snyder administration will have many challenges to deal with, including boosting Michigan’s economy, balancing the budget and dealing with critical public health issues.

Calley didn’t get into a lot of specifics in terms of policy, which is unsurprising since the transition has just begun, but economic growth is clearly the first concern on everyone’s mind in Michigan. But the incoming Lt. Governor indicated that he and Snyder believed that a healthier Michigan workforce was an important factor in building sustained economic recovery.

The list of public health problems facing Michigan is long. Earlier this week, the Center for Healthcare Research released a policy brief on the impact of pre-term birth in the state. Those are births of children under 37 weeks gestation. The brief noted that premature births rose 20 percent between 1996 and 2006, helping push the annual cost of such births nationally to more than $ 26 billion.

It also found the startling disparity in relation to race and prematurity of birth. African American children are 70 percent more likely to be born prematurely over white children. Eleven percent of white and Hispanic infants and 9.9 percent of Asian infants are born prematurely, while almost 19 percent of black infants are born prematurely. Studies show that premature birth is a key factor in later educational achievement.

Michigan is also among the most overweight in the country studies show. A report by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released in July of this year ranked Michigan as the tenth most obese state in the country.

Michigan also has more smokers than most other states. In 2008, 22.8 percent of Michigan adult men and 18.3 percent of women were cigarette smokers. That compares to the national average of 20.7 percent of men, and 16.2 percent of women, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation State Health Facts.

Marianne Udow-Phillips, the former director of public health under Gov. Jennifer Granholm and now director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation, says public health is key to economy success.

“I think it is all tied to the economy, because to the extent our citizens are healthier, they can be more productive in their jobs,” Udow-Phillips said. “I think public health has sort of a core role to play in improving population health, which is essential for our economic effectiveness and success.”

To marry economic development and public health, she offers several key recommendations for the Snyder team.

The first and perhaps most important change, Udow-Phillips says, has to be the way the state looks at Medicaid. While she served in the Engler Administration as the head of the Health Department, the decision was made to move Medicaid from what was then called the Family Independence Agency and into the newly formed Michigan Department of Community Health.

As a result of bloating enrollment in the program — nearly one in five state residents use the insurance program — the cost of Medicaid eclipses the rest of the department’s budget. That she says, has allowed public health to become less directed and focused.

In the most recently completed budget, Medicaid spending accounted for 9.2 percent of the entire budget, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“There would be tremendous value as Gov. Snyder and the Lt. Gov. consider how to structure their administration for them to consider looking again at that organizational structure, and thinking perhaps pulling public health for a specific focus,” she said.

If the burden of the enormous budgetary restraints created by Medicaid were removed, she says, the state could focus on public health priorities like obesity, smoking, premature births and more.

“We know we need to focus on obesity, smoking, and premature births,” says Udow-Phillips. “Those should be the central focus of public health.”

Michigan Messenger

Bush Tax Cuts On The Table In December, Public Backs Democratic Position

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

It looks like House and Senate Democrats are planning to vote on extending the Bush Tax Cuts for those earning less than $ 250,000/year sometime after Thanksgiving:

Washington (CNN) – Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate have decided to move ahead with votes after Thanksgiving to extend the Bush tax cuts for those making $ 250,000 or less.

These decisions come hours after Democratic leaders met at the White House with President Obama, where several sources say they talked extensively about the tax cuts. Until now, how or whether Democrats would proceed on the thorny issue of extending the Bush era tax cuts was unresolved.

In the House, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told CNN that Democratic leaders have scheduled a vote. “At least that will be available for members to have a vote on,” Hoyer said.

What is still unclear is if that House vote would extend so-called middle class tax cuts permanently, or just on a temporary basis.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid said he plans to vote on the middle class tax cut extension most Democrats want, but he will also allow Republicans to hold a vote on what they are demanding: a permanent extension of all Bush-era tax cuts.

On the Republican side of the aisle, plans have been announced to introduce legislation to make all of the tax cuts permanent:

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., left little room for compromise on the issue of extending the expiring income tax cuts, suggesting that if they are not made permanent by the end of the year, Republicans should redouble their efforts to do so in the new Congress.

Pence said on Thursday that he was backing up that pledge with legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., to permanently extend the cuts for both the middle class and wealthy Americans.

“I really believe that the last thing we should do in the worst economy in 25 years is allow a tax increase on any American,” Pence told ABC’s Jonathan Karl and Rick Klein on “Top Line.” “And we shouldn’t do it in 6 weeks, we should do it in 24 months or 36 months, we ought to start the road to recovery by saying to the American people all the current tax rates are the tax rates going forward, permanently. And then we can go to work on putting our fiscal house in order and pursuing the kind of pro-growth policy that’ll really create growth.”

Judging from the opinion polls, it would seem that the Democrats have the public behind them on this one. A new CNN poll for example, shows that only 1/3 of those polled support extending the Bush Tax Cuts for those making over $ 250,000/year and a new NBC poll shows that support for full extension of the tax cuts is even lower than that:

Congress will soon decide whether to keep in place the existing tax cuts enacted during President Bush’s time in office, or allow them to expire. Which one of the following options would be your preference for what they should do?

Eliminate all the tax cuts permanently: 10

Eliminate the tax cuts for those earning more than $ 250,000 per year, but keep them for those earning less than that: 39

Keep in place all the tax cuts for everyone for another year to three years: 23

Keep in place the tax cuts for everyone permanently: 23

Based on these polls, which have been fairly consistent over the time that extending the tax cuts has been an issue, the Democrats would seem to have the upper hand and, if they stay united, the votes to pass a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the “middle class” (as if someone earning between $ 100,000 and $ 249,999 per year is really “middle class), thus leaving the question of extending the rest of the cuts for the new Republican majority in the House to deal with.

Outside the Beltway

Poll: Public Evenly Divided On Whether Federal Spending Should Increase, Or Decrease

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

All that rhetoric from Republicans that the election returns signal the desire of the American public to cut back spending in Washington may not be true after all based on this new poll from CNN:

Washington (CNN) – A new national poll suggests that cuts in federal spending are likely to be hard to sell to the American public, even though the desire for less spending on domestic programs is significantly higher than it was during the Reagan and Clinton years.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday, the number of Americans who want more government spending on domestic programs equals the number who want the government to spend less. Overall, 49 percent say the federal government should spend more money for domestic programs; that figure is up 17 percentage points since 1994. Another 49 percent saying less should be spent on domestic programs.

“Aside from party identification, the biggest demographic differences on this question were between younger and older Americans,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “A majority of Americans under 50 want more spending on domestic programs. But 57 percent of Americans older than 50 think the government should spend less on these programs.”

When you dig deeper in the poll, you find that many programs may be hard to cut:

According to the poll, more than seven in ten oppose eliminating the deductions taxpayers can take for mortgage payments and young children; two-thirds oppose an increase in the federal gasoline tax. Two-thirds also oppose an increase in the retirement age for Social Security and three-quarters don’t like the proposal to reduce the yearly increase in Social Security benefits. Only about one in three feel that reducing the deficit is a higher priority than keeping the current levels on farm aid and college loans, and only one in five think that deficit reduction is more important than keeping the current levels of spending on Medicare and Social Security.

But the survey indicates that some federal programs are not popular: 61 percent say that deficit reduction is more important than funding for the arts, and 68 percent say reducing the deficit is more important than avoiding cuts in pay and benefits for federal workers.

This supports the argument I made earlier this week that Republicans should be careful about what lessons they draw from the 2010 elections:

The idea that there’s some kind of broad political consensus for the budget cuts and, yes, tax increases that would be needed to seriously deal with the deficit and the debt simply isn’t supported by the available evidence. That’s not saying that Republicans shouldn’t attack debt and spending issues over the next two years, of course, but the danger they face this time around is similar to the one they faced in 1994. By concentrating on issues that are important to their base, they are in danger of ignoring what’s important to the public as a whole. Much like 2008, this election was primarily about one thing, the economy. Democrats suffered two weeks ago because they lost sight of that. Republicans could suffer a similar fate if they forget why they were sent to Capitol Hill.

This poll would seem to reinforce that warning, as well as providing yet more evidence that Americans still don’t know what they want out of government.

Outside the Beltway

Energy and Global Warming News for November 17th: Interior Department OKs second large solar project in Nevada; Public EV charging program expands; Global warming to bring more intense storms

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Interior Department OKs Second Large Solar Project on Nevada Public Lands

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) on November 15 approved the second large-scale solar energy project on U.S. public lands in Nevada. The Amargosa Farm Road Solar Project, a 500-megawatt (MW) facility, will provide electricity to about 150,000 homes. The project, an initiative of Solar Millennium LLC, is expected to create 1,300 construction jobs and up to 200 permanent operation jobs. Last month, DOI green lighted the first solar energy project on U.S. public lands in Nevada, First Solar’s Silver State North Solar Project, a 50-megawatt facility to be built in the Ivanpah Valley, 40 miles south of Las Vegas.

The Amargosa Farm Road Solar Project will employ concentrating solar power technology that will include two 250-megawatt parabolic trough power plants equipped with thermal energy storage capability. The project will be located in the Amargosa Valley on 4,350 acres of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The project has undergone extensive environmental review, officials said. BLM, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service worked closely with Solar Millennium to develop an innovative mitigation plan for water use that can serve as a model for future solar projects.

The project will have a net-neutral benefit on the plant and animal species found at nearby Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and the Devils Hole, a cavern located within the refuge. BLM also worked with the developer to reduce the approved project’s footprint from 7,630 acres to 6,320 acres. The BLM will require a natural color palette and minimum night lighting measures to reduce visual impacts on the local community.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s incentives for specified energy programs, Solar Millennium would be eligible for approximately $ 1 billion in investment tax credits. The company is also eligible to apply for financing through the DOE Title 17 Loan Guarantee Program. The project is negotiating to sell electricity to NV Energy under the terms of a power purchase agreement.

DOE-Backed Public EV Charging Program Expands to Washington, D.C.

The first public electric vehicle (EV) charging station in Washington, D.C., was unveiled on November 16. Installation under Coulomb Technologies’ ChargePoint America program was supported in part by a $ 15 million DOE grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The program will install more than 500 charging stations in the District of Columbia area as part of nationwide effort that will add 4,600 charging stations during the next two years.

Noting that such advanced vehicle technologies are creating jobs and promoting the use of fuel-efficient cars in the United States, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu issued a statement saying, “the hundreds of electric vehicle charging stations coming to Washington, D.C. highlight the important role our nation’s capital will have in the clean energy economy of the future.”

Coulomb Technologies is now installing 240-v electric vehicle chargers for commercial and public use across the country. These Level II charging stations in nine regions will support the deployment of 2,600 electric-drive vehicles, including vehicles by Ford, Chevrolet, and smart USA. The nine pilot regions include Austin, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; Los Angeles; New York; Orlando, Florida; Sacramento, California; the San Jose and San Francisco Bay Area; the Bellevue and Redmond, Washington area; and now Washington, D.C.

As the public begins to use these devices, DOE will collect data on travel patterns and about how drivers use their electric vehicles; where and when people charge their cars; and what impacts the chargers might have on the grid.

Global Warming to Bring More Intense Storms to Northern Hemisphere in Winter and Southern Hemisphere Year Round

Weather systems in the Southern and Northern hemispheres will respond differently to global warming, according to an MIT atmospheric scientist’s analysis that suggests the warming of the planet will affect the availability of energy to fuel extratropical storms, or large-scale weather systems that occur at Earth’s middle latitudes. The resulting changes will depend on the hemisphere and season, the study found.

More intense storms will occur in the Southern Hemisphere throughout the year, whereas in the Northern Hemisphere, the change in storminess will depend on the season — with more intense storms occurring in the winter and weaker storms in the summer. The responses are different because even though the atmosphere will get warmer and more humid due to global warming, not all of the increased energy of the atmosphere will be available to power extratropical storms. It turns out that the changes in available energy depend on the hemisphere and season, according to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Fewer extratropical storms during the summer in the Northern Hemisphere could lead to increased air pollution, as “there would be less movement of air to prevent the buildup of pollutants in the atmosphere,” says author Paul O’Gorman, the Victor P. Starr Career Development Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Science in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. Likewise, stronger storms year-round in the Southern Hemisphere would lead to stronger winds over the Antarctic Ocean, which would impact ocean circulation. Because the ocean circulation redistributes heat throughout the world’s oceans, any change could impact the global climate.

O’Gorman’s analysis examined the relationship between storm intensity and the amount of energy available to create the strong winds that fuel extratropical storms. After analyzing data compiled between 1981 and 2000 on winds in the atmosphere, he noticed that the energy available for storms depended on the season. Specifically, it increased during the winter, when extratropical storms are strong, and decreased during the summer, when they are weak.

Because this relationship could be observed in the current climate, O’Gorman was confident that available energy would be useful in relating temperature and storminess changes in global-warming simulations for the 21st century. After analyzing these simulations, he observed that changes in the energy available for storms were linked to changes in temperature and storm intensity, which depended on the season and hemisphere. He found that available energy increased throughout the year for the Southern Hemisphere, which led to more intense storms. But for the Northern Hemisphere, O’Gorman observed that available energy increased during the winter and decreased during the summer.

This makes sense, O’Gorman says, because the changes in the strength of extratropical storms depend on where in the atmosphere the greatest warming occurs; if the warming is greatest in the lower part of the atmosphere, this tends to create stronger storms, but if it is greatest higher up, this leads to weaker storms. During the Northern Hemisphere summer, the warming is greatest at higher altitudes, which stabilizes the atmosphere and leads to less intense storms.

Although the analysis suggests that global warming will result in weaker Northern Hemisphere storms during the summer, O’Gorman says that it’s difficult to determine the degree to which those storms will weaken. That depends on the interaction between the atmosphere and the oceans, and for the Northern Hemisphere, this interaction is linked to how quickly the Arctic Ocean ice disappears. Unfortunately, climate scientists don’t yet know the long-term rate of melting.

IBM to offer smart grid solutions to India

IBM, one of the world’s leading IT companies and smart grid solutions leaders is planning to offer its services to Indian utilities over the next few years. IBM’s General Manager of Global Energy and Utilities told an Indian business daily that his company sees tremendous potential for growth in the Indian market as it expands to provide electricity to more consumers.

India suffers from grave power shortage which is likely to worsen over the next few decades. On one hand, there are problems with the lack of adequate generation capacity with power cuts ranging to several hours still prevalent in many cities. On the other hand, there are problems with the lack of transmission infrastructure with several thousand villages still not connected to the national grid.

A third of the power transmitted is lost in the transmission network while a tenth is lost to theft. While these losses have been coming down slowly over the recent years, there is still a long way to go for the utilities to achieve the desired state of operations. India has also been missing its generation infrastructure expansion plans for the last several decades.

Last year the Indian government announced the National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency which aims at improving energy efficiency in industrial as well as commercial and residential sectors. While for the industrial sector a scheme similar to the carbon trading, called the energy efficiency certificate scheme is in works, the case with the commercial and residential sector is slightly complicated. The industries can take care of themselves once the binding efficiency targets have been stipulated to them but the government needs to put in more effort for improving efficiency in the commercial/residential sector.

Therefore, such a situation calls for the implementation of the smart grid. A smart grid would help the utilities get information about the electricity use by the consumers and can potentially adapt it distribution process with respect to the time and quantum of power demand. The smart grid which uses smart meters could potentially be used for detecting power theft. In addition, the info that the consumers would have access through the smart meters would possibly help them manage their energy use in a better and more efficient way.

Clean energy: Economic key to 21st century

$ 2 trillion. That’s the amount that the global clean energy market is expected to grow in the next decade. China and Germany, two of the world’s largest economies that have best weathered the storms of recession, both see the potential of clean energy. China has created a massive domestic market to drive up demand and spur innovations. It is now poised to sell its clean technologies to the rest of the world. Germany, already world leader in solar power, made domestic clean tech development a key part of its strategy to export its way out of recession.

Beyond recovery from the current economic crisis, the country that first develops and integrates affordable clean energy technologies is likely to dominate the 21st century global economy — and create the jobs that go along with it.

The United States is a nation of innovators. Our creativity, productivity and entrepreneurial spirit led to our economic dominance throughout the 20th century. This ingenuity can drive our success in the 21st century. But we need a commitment from the private sector – coupled with strong support from the government – to develop, manufacture and use new clean energy technologies. The innovations we need to dominate this market include major, game-changing breakthroughs, like next-generation nuclear power and long-distance electric cars. But they also include incremental progress — like expanded battery storage, upgrades to our transmission system and improvements in solar panels.

But large or small, innovations don’t just happen. With slower capital returns than usually seen with IT and biotech investments, we need to encourage private sector involvement in clean energy. Lack of demand — since new energy sources have been more costly than fossil fuels — can deter development of promising technologies.

India Floods, Droughts to Worsen by 2030 as Climate Changes, Report Says

India may endure floods 30 percent more severe in magnitude and heightened drought conditions by 2030 due to climate change, which could affect crop yields, damage dams and harm infrastructure, the government said today. “There is no country in the world that is as vulnerable on so many dimensions to climate change as India is,” Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said in a climate-change report prepared by 220 scientists in the country.

Every India region is expected to see more rainfall by the 2030s, each with 5 to 10 more days annually of “extreme precipitation,” the report said. Flooding will have a “very severe implication for existing infrastructure such as dams, bridges, roads.”

Rising greenhouse-gas levels are projected to raise the average annual temperature across India, which with 1.2 billion people is the second-most populous nation after China, by as much as 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by the 2030s, it said. The changing conditions may boost yields of irrigated rice and coconuts while depressing those of corn and sorghum, reduce milk productivity from livestock and cause malaria to spread to new areas, the report said.

The frequency of droughts is already increasing, especially in the Himalayan region where the degree of severity has increased by more than 20 percent since the 1970s, it said. The report is the government’s first attempt to assess the impact of climate change by the 2030s, it said. Previous assessments made projections for the 2070s and beyond.

U.S. Solar Industry Fights to Save Clean Energy Grants

The solar industry called on Congress on Tuesday to extend a contentious grant program in the lame-duck session that it says produced 20,000 solar jobs in a year and half and helped to jump-start the U.S. clean energy economy. The U.S. Treasury’s “Section 1603″ Renewable Energy Grant Program, part of the $ 787 billion anti-recession stimulus of 2009, is slated to run out at year’s end.

Under the program, green energy developers earn almost immediate grants of 30 percent of project costs, unleashing funds quickly, in lieu of longstanding tax credits. As of late October, the money supported roughly 1,100 solar energy systems in 42 states, including 97 solar thermal installations, according to figures from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the top trade group.

“It is absolutely critical that during the lame-duck session … Congress extend this program and give support and consistency to those companies who are investing in the solar industry,” Rhone Resch, chief executive of SEIA, said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

Resch said relying on the tax credit would be a mistake because it depends on tax equity markets that froze up amid the 2008 financial crisis and may not recover until 2012. “We still have a massive gap between the tax equity appetite of the marketplace and what’s available from the lending institutions,” Resch said. He and his colleagues at solar companies are pushing for two more years of grants.

Bloomberg calls for carbon tax

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday that he’s in favor of a carbon tax –- a view not shared by many political leaders of either party in Washington. Bloomberg, speaking to a group of chief executives at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council, said the U.S. needs to reduce its dependence on foreign oil if “you want to stop sending your money to…terrorists.” The answer: “We need a carbon tax,” he said.

Bloomberg, an independent, criticized the now-moribund Democratic proposal to develop a nationwide “cap and trade” system for limiting U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by requiring companies to buy tradeable permits for the right to emit greenhouse gases under a steadily declining economy wide cap. “Cap and trade is filled with so many special interests,” he said.

The mayor downplayed speculation that he may consider a run for president, saying he had a great job already. He more forcefully dismissed the idea of an independent candidacy. “The Republicans and Democrats, no matter who their candidates are, no matter who,” would have the advantage, he said. An independent couldn’t get a majority, Bloomberg explained, and if the electoral collage produced no winner the election would go to the House of Representatives. “And in the next election, the Republicans would pick the president,” he said.

Kiribati climate change conference calls for urgent cash and action

The Tarawa climate change conference in Kiribati, a chain of low-lying islands in the South Pacific, ended with the signing of an 18-point declaration, recording concerns over the impact of climate change on some of the most vulnerable countries and calling for immediate access to adaptation funds. Signed by 12 countries (Kiribati, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, the Maldives, Cuba, Brazil, Fiji, Japan, China, the Marshall Islands, New Zealand and Australia – the US, UK and Canada chose to act as observers and not sign).

The Ambo declaration expressed “deep concerns” over the slow pace of international negotiations to reach a legally binding agreement to tackle climate change and called for an “urgent package” to be agreed at Cancun later this month to help the most vulnerable states respond to the impact. Anote Tong, the president of Kiribati, said: “I am realistic enough to understand that the process will go on for quite some time, the negotiations will carry on, but I also believe that there is sufficient conscience and goodwill existing in this global community at least to address the urgent issues now.”

Many of the representatives of the most vulnerable countries watched on quietly as the lengthy negotiations revealed the deep divisions between the world’s most powerful nations about what shape a legally binding climate agreement should take. The conference didn’t make any progress in that regard, which may be a warm up for the kind of disagreements and weak commitments we can expect from Cancun. The call for urgent adaptation finance will appeal to wealthy states who may find it easier to hand over more aid money than reduce emissions.

South Korea Planning Massive Off Shore Wind Farm

Wind energy currently meets a mere 1.5% of global electricity generation. But scientists foresee a lot of potential in this alternative energy source. Asian countries are also trying to embrace clean and green energy. South Korea is going for an ambitious off-shore wind farm amounting to $ 8.3 billion. This project will be executed at the western coast of the Korean peninsula taking a time period of ten years.

Currently South Korean companies such as Hyundai Heavy Industries, Samsung Heavy Industries, Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction, and Hyosung Corp. are taking keen interest in the production of wind turbines.

According to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE) this project will erect 500 wind turbines in the West Sea off the Jeolla province. All these turbines are supposed to produce 2,500 megawatts of energy a year. This amount of electricity will be sufficient for 3.5 million Busan residents for a full month. MKE director general Kang Nam-hoon says, “Basically, the scheme is composed of three phases. By 2013, we will have raised 20 5-megawatt turbines and add 180 by 2016 and 300 more by 2019.”

Kang Nam-hoon is quite hopeful that South Korea will register its entry into clean and green fuel with the completion of this project. He states, “On the back of the mega-sized project, we strive to preempt the ever-growing global green market and become one of the three powerhouses in the offshore wind power generation.”

Climate Progress

Only 26% of the Public Believes Barack Obama Will be Reelected President in 2012

November 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

YIKES … Only 26% of the American public think that Barack Obama would be reelected in 2012. I guess we now know how America feels about that Obama “hopey, changey” stuff. Will 2012 turn out to be a Jimmy Carter 1980 second term Presidential election? Obama starts out with 24% of the vote …

President Barack Obama may not have officially been on the ballot in the 2010 midterm elections, but his failed and opposed unpopular policies and agenda certainly were. Following the 2010 midterm tsunami that say the GOP gain the House and majority of governorships, close the gap in the US senate and win an unheard of 680 state legislatures … Barack Obama now finds himself in trouble heading into the 2012 elections.

The midterms not only dealt a big shock to Democrats but also sent a message to President Barack Obama. According to the new POLITICO Power and the People poll, only 26 percent of the public believes he will be reelected as president in 2012. Inside the Beltway, however, expectations are quite different, with D.C. elites saying he will have a second term by a reverse 2 to 1 margin. (49 percent say re-elected; 23 percent say not).

What a shock that the folks “Inside the Beltway” don’t see it the same as the rest of the country. Maybe that can explain the 2012 blow out.

This difference in expectations could mislead the president if he is listening to the Beltway chatter — right here in D.C., he may just find a lot of comfort in this assessment by insiders, and that may lead to actions that don’t fully adjust for the sea change that has occurred among the general public. (See also Poll: D.C. Sees Midterms Differently)

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Scared Monkeys

GAO: Public Debt Will Surpass WWII Highs Within 10 Years

November 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 
style=”float: right; margin-bottom: 1px; margin-left: 1px;”> href=”http://www.heritage.org/budgetchartbook/national-debt-skyrocket”> class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-46743″ title=”debt100609″ src=”http://blog.heritage.org/wp-content/uploads/debt1006091.jpg” alt=”” width=”400″ height=”350″ />

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released yet another dire warning about the nation’s long-term fiscal condition. href=”http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11201sp.pdf”>The report—an annual update of long-term budget simulations—projects that debt held by the public will likely exceed the historical high within 10 years.

What was once viewed by many as a distant budget imbalance has suddenly become a near-term crisis. Unfortunately, simply ignoring the issue—the action of choice for most lawmakers to date—exacerbates the problem. The GAO href=”http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11201sp.pdf”>notes the urgency of the situation:

With the passage of time the window to address the long-term challenge narrows and the magnitude of the required changes grows. The federal government faces long-term fiscal pressures that predate the economic downturn and are driven on the spending side largely by rising health care costs and an aging population. GAO’s simulations show continually increasing levels of debt that are unsustainable over the long-term. id=”more-46729″>Under [one] simulation, debt held by the public as a share of GDP would exceed the historical high reached in the aftermath of World War II by 2020.

However, this grim fiscal future is not inevitable. Recently, The Heritage Foundation released href=”http://www.heritage.org/research/projects/solutions-for-america”>Solutions for America, a report addressing conservative solutions for 23 discrete policy areas, including 128 detailed policy solutions. Included in the report are five specific ideas to rein in out-of-control entitlement spending and return the nation to a sustainable fiscal course. The recommendations include:

  • Placing entitlements on long-term budgets rather than allowing them to increase indefinitely on auto-pilot,
  • Transforming Medicare into a defined contribution system,
  • Transforming Medicaid from an open-ended entitlement to an insurance-based model of private coverage,
  • Creating a system of voluntary personal accounts within Social Security and transforming the remainder of Social Security to “real insurance,” focusing benefits on those who really need them, and
  • Encouraging increased personal retirement savings through auto-enrollment in Individual Retirement Accounts.

The nation’s fiscal situation is deteriorating by the day, and previous attempts to “bend the cost curve” have clearly failed. Common sense solutions do exist. It’s time to implement real reform.

The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

Raw Story: Geller and Spencer hoodwinked the public into believing that the Ground Zero Mosque is a Ground Zero Mosque

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Leftist pseudo-journalist/propagandist David Edwards uses a suspicious story about a domed church in Arizona that people are supposedly “fearing” because they think it is a mosque to claim that “Islamophobia” is reaching a fever pitch, and that Pamela Geller and I played a role in that by successfully “dubbing” an “Islamic center that is planned near Ground Zero” a “Ground Zero Mosque.”

“Church in Arizona protested because it looks like a mosque,” by David Edwards in The Raw Story, November 16:

Islamophobia may have reached a point in this country where people condemn Christians that they suspect are Muslims without ever checking the facts.

In Phoenix, Arizona, a new Christian church has residents fearing that it is an Islamic mosque.

The Light of the World multidenominational church is being built just off of Interstate 10 and features a dome-like structure.

“Since the distinctive dome shape went up, church leaders said they have received phone calls from concerned neighbors who’ve mistaken the building for an Islamic mosque,” KPHO reported.

“I heard many people, they came over and they say, ‘Is this a Muslim temple?’ No, it’s not,” church member Juan Calixto told KPNX.

“It is unfortunate that people are so intolerant to differences that they aren’t willing to see that the place of worship is not a mosque,” said Tayyibah Amatullah of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Arizona chapter….

No mention from Edwards, unsurprisingly, of CAIR’s Hamas links, the terror convictions of various of its former officials, etc.

Officials are trying to avoid the type of backlash received by the Park51 Islamic center that is planned near Ground Zero.

The cultural center was largely ignored when The New York Times first reported about it in December 2009.

The project received wider notice in May 2010 when a community board considered the construction plans. Conservative bloggers Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer dubbed the proposed center the “Ground Zero Mosque” which started a national controversy.

“But with so many high-profile figures selling unfounded, anti-Muslim fear to the public, is it any wonder that all many Americans can see in Islam is a phantom menace?” asked Tanya Somanader at the liberal blog Think Progress.

David Edwards must think that the American people are very stupid, if he really believes that Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer could hoodwink the 70% of Americans who oppose the Ground Zero Mosque into thinking that it was a mosque at Ground Zero in the first place, when it’s really just an innocent “Islamic center that is planned near Ground Zero”?

In reality, most Americans believe that the Ground Zero Mosque is a Ground Zero Mosque because they can see with their own eyes that it is a Ground Zero Mosque.

The Burlington Coat Factory building that will be torn down to build the mosque is part of the attack site, as the landing gear from one of the 9/11 planes crashed into its roof and fell five stories to the basement. The building is thus an essential part of Ground Zero itself, which will greatly enhance the mosque’s symbolic value in the Islamic world as another triumphal mosque, a la the Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (the grandest cathedral in Christendom for a millennium, converted to a mosque in 1453, now a museum), and thousands of others throughout the Islamic world.

What’s more, mosque organizer Feisal Abdul Rauf in December 2009 spoke happily about building the mosque on a site “where a piece of the wreckage fell.” In other words, the Ground Zero location is very much part of the point for him.

And as for its not being a mosque, it will contain a mosque, and thus it isn’t in the least unjustified to call the whole thing a mosque, as did Daisy Khan, one of the organizers of the Ground Zero mosque initiative. No one says that the evangelical mega-churches that contain swimming pools and counseling centers, etc., are not churches because they contain things other than a worship space.

Jihad Watch

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