With Brad Friedman & Desi Doyen...
By Desi Doyen on 2/8/2011, 1:20pm PT  


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IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Was the White House responsible for blackouts in TX? Some rightwing pundits thinks so (surprised?); Worldwide flooding, fires and storms: The growing cost of extreme weather to governments around the world; PLUS: A cool reception for President Obama from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

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IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Climate scientist sues skeptic for libel; USDA defies court order to deregulate GMO sugar beets; Germany sells vision for 'green toys' to world; Wind power now competitive with coal in some regions; Natural gas drilling fells 1,000 trees in WV forest; China to impose green tax on heavy polluters; Colorado has more ailing dams, less money to fix them; Milwaukee, Chicago Areas May Face Water Shortages; Biden Announces $53 Billion Rail-Funding Plan; Chemical plant explosion causes massive fire near Houston; BP lays off more workers as Gulf Coast oil cleanup work lessens ... PLUS: Industry-funded Super Bowl ad rails against (non-existent) soda tax ....

STORIES DISCUSSED IN TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

  • Extreme Weather Events Are Expensive:
    • Is the White House to Blame for Blackouts in TX During Blizzard? Um.... No.:
      • Deception on Texas Blackouts Threatens American Prosperity and Security (Daily Kos)
      • Texas weathers rolling blackouts as mercury drops (Reuters)
      • Some Companies Made Millions Off the Texas Blackouts (Texas Observer)
      • Who or What is to Blame for Last Week's Rolling Blackouts in Texas?
        [D]etails have only now begun to trickle out about the root causes of the rolling blackouts - and what helped save Texas from a system wide blackout that would have taken hours, if not days, from which to recover. That didn't stop a lot of people from throwing out bizarre conspiracy theories, unfounded assertions, or claims about the need to build more fossil fuel plants in Texas, all before the facts were even known.

        We'll get to that soon enough, but first let's hear from someone who really knows what happened - Trip Doggett, head of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)...
        ...
        "Our problem was more around the 50 generating units who had issues with their lack of winterization or insufficient winterization efforts that caused the major problem." 50 generating units. About 7,000 MW of fossil fuel plants, or more than 10% of the supply on the grid, went down last week because of 'insufficient weatherization.'

    • A Cool Reception for Pres. Obama at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

    'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

    • Climate Scientist Sues Skeptic for Libel (NYT Green):
      A prominent Canadian climate scientist is suing a leading climate skeptic for libel, arguing that an article published online in January contained false and malicious claims.
    • Germany sells vision for 'green toys' to world (AP):
      The hottest "green" toy in Germany isn't made of organic or recycled materials. That's so 2010. This one has a solar panel and only runs if kids remember to insert bright red "energy stones" that power the rest of the space station.

      Germany, a pioneer in many renewable energy initiatives, is also at the forefront of creating environment-friendly toys aimed at making kids think about where energy comes from and how much of it they can use, raising awareness through play.

    • Beet down: USDA 'partially deregulates' GM sugar beets, defying court order (Tom Philpott, Grist) [emphasis added]:
      On Friday, the agency didn't simply skulk away from its own words in an apparent attempt to appease the agrichemical industry. This time, it defied a court order banning the planting of GM sugar beets until a proper study of their environmental impact can be done. The USDA announced that it would allow farmers to begin planting Monsanto's Roundup Ready sugar beets --- genetically tweaked to withstand copious lashings of Monsanto's herbicide --- even though the environmental impact study has yet to be completed, The Wall Street Journal reports.
      ...
      Sugar beets provide about half of the sugar consumed in the United States --- and Monsanto controls 95 percent of the sugar beet seed market with its Roundup Ready genes. The company's stranglehold over the beet market demonstrates its insidious market power. When a federal judge demanded in August 2010 that farmers stop planting Monsanto's GM beet seeds pending an impact study, farmers quickly found out that virtually no non-GM seed was available. Between 2005, when the USDA first greenlighted GM beets, and 2010, Monsanto had essentially driven all competition out of the market.
    • Wind Power Now Competitive with Coal in Some Regions (Grist):
      The cost of onshore wind power has dropped to record lows, and in some regions is competitive with electricity generated by coal plants, according to a survey by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
    • Natural Gas Drilling Fells 1,000 Trees in W. Va. Forest, Scientists Say (Solve Climate and Pro Publica):
      In one of the first studies to observe the full course of drilling, scientists found that a well and a pipeline killed trees but did not affect groundwater.
      ..
      A new report by the U.S. Forest Service offers one of the most detailed accounts yet of how natural gas drilling can affect a forest - in this case the Fernow Experimental Forest, deep in the mountains of West Virginia.

      The report traces the construction and drilling of a single well and an accompanying pipeline on a sliver of the 4,700 acre forest that federal scientists have been studying for nearly 80 years. It found that the project felled or killed about 1,000 trees, damaged roads, eroded the land and-perhaps most important-permanently removed a small slice of the forest from future scientific research.

    • Colorado has more ailing dams, less money to fix them (Denver Post):
      Colorado has so many deficient dams restricted from holding water that, if owners were to fix them, the state would gain four Chatfield Reservoirs worth of coveted water-storage capacity.
    • Milwaukee, Chicago Areas May Face Water Shortages: Report (Planet Ark) [emphasis added]:
      The Great Lakes region, the world's largest freshwater system, could face local water shortages in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas due to increased demand and environmental changes, the U.S. Geological Survey said on Monday.

      Water levels in Chicago and Milwaukee could drop by an additional 100 feet over the next 30 years due to increased demand from pumping of groundwater that has already reduced groundwater levels as much as 1,000 feet, the report found.

    • Biden Announces $53 Billion Rail-Funding Plan (Wall St. Journal):
      "In a global economy, we can't forget that infrastructure is also the veins and the arteries of commerce," Mr. Biden said. He frequently travels between his home state of Delaware and Washington on Amtrak trains.

      The administration has already devoted $10.5 billion to passenger-rail programs, with the bulk of the funds going toward California and Florida high-speed rail projects that are currently in the planning stage.

    • China to impose green tax on heavy polluters: After decades of filthy growth, China's new five-year cleanup strategy is the most ambitious in its modern history. (Guardian UK)
    • Chemical plant explosion causes massive fire near Houston (AP)
    • BP lays off more workers as Gulf Coast oil cleanup work lessens (Mobile Press-Register)
    • Sugar Fix: Industry-Funded Super Bowl Ad Rails Against the (Non-Existent) Soda Tax (Tom Philpott, Grist):
      Something called Americans Against Food Taxes sponsored the ad. Its membership is mostly the predictable corporate crew whose bottom lines might take a hit from less soda consumption: grain-trading giants like Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill; fast-food behemoths like McDonald's and Wendy's; sweet-drink purveyors Coca-Cola and Pepsi; and a whole bevy of supermarket industry interest groups.
      ...
      The ad's message --- that the government must stop "trying to control what we eat and drink" --- is of course richly ironic. In the early 1970s, the federal government began more or less explicitly pursuing a cheap-corn policy --- tweaking policy levers to urge farmers to produce as much corn and soy possible. The resulting explosion in corn production --- along with the market for high-fructose corn syrup, rigged up in an unholy alliance between the grain-trading giant Archer Daniels Midland and its government cronies --- is largely why people can unthinkingly drop huge bottles of soda into shopping carts.