IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Record storms kill hundreds across the South; Half the nation lives with dangerously polluted air; New rules for industrial waste dumps in your drinking water; PLUS: Big Oil fights to keep $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies, as near-record gas prices bring record oil industry profits ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): The 'sorry state' of America's nuclear safety regulatory system; New study maps nuclear reactor safety worldwide; Google goal: making solar, renewables cheaper than coal; Chief offshore drilling regulator criticizes lack of oversight; What motivates a climate skeptic?; TX Gov: wildfires could blow hole in budget;Oil drilling blowout could spill 58 million gallons in the extreme, fragile Arctic; 21st century West to get even drier; Is biomass energy as 'green' as the industry claims?; New BPA Report Linked to Industry; Maine bans BPA; Energy Secretary Chu admits fracking has caused water pollution; National coal expert: "Mining is a loser" in practically every way ... PLUS: Royal wedding will be slightly greener wretched pile of excess than usual ...
STORIES DISCUSSED IN TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...
- WATCH: Limbaugh Whips Boehner: 'If I Were A Political Leader…I Would Defend Big Oil' (Media Matters, via ThinkProgress):
LIMBAUGH: [Boehner] is open to the idea of reducing the so-called oil subsidies. and he used a phrase popularized by the left: "It's about time the oil companies pay their fair share." He's open to them paying their fair share and open to the idea of reducing their subsidies when we need them the most. I understand the Republicans don't want to get caught in the trap - they think it's a trap - of having to defend Big Oil.[...]
If I were a political leader and a Republican and the Democrats were hellbent on ending Big Oil subsidies and raising taxes on Big Oil in circumstances like we are in now, is it just me? This may be the difference between working in radio and working in politics. I would defend Big Oil! Especially now. We need supply!
- Another Round of Record Extreme Weather Pounds Midwest:
- WATCH: Tornado videos: Top 10 must-see from Alabama storms (Mobile Press-Register)
- Dozens of tornadoes kill 249 in 6 Southern states (AP)
- Record-breaking spree of tornadoes this month in USA tentatively linked (very tentatively) to #climate change
- Alabama nuclear plant without power but shut safely (Reuters)
- Masters: Midwest deluge enhanced by near-record Gulf of Mexico sea surface temperatures (Weather Underground):
This week's storm system, in combination with heavy rains earlier this month, have pushed the Ohio River and Mississippi River to near-record levels near their confluence. The Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois is expected to crest at 60.5 feet on May 1. This would exceed 100-year flood stage, and be the highest flood in history, besting the 59.5? mark of 1937.
- Half the Nation Lives With Dangerously Polluted Air
- The State of the Air 2011 (American Lung Association):
The State of the Air 2011 shows that the air quality in many places has improved during 2007-2009. Still, over 154 million people-just over one half the nation-suffer pollution levels that are too often dangerous to breathe.
Roughly half the people (50.3%) in the United States live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution. Almost 154.5 million Americans live in the 366 counties where they are exposed to unhealthful levels of air pollution in the form of either ozone or short-term or year-round levels of particles.
- Report names U.S. cities with foulest, cleanest air (Reuters)
- American Lung Association reports air quality gains, but warns many Americans still breathe dangerous air pollution (Center for American Progress):
Yesterday, the American Lung Association released its annual air quality report, State of the Air 2011, identifying the United State's most unhealthy cities by year-round and short term particle pollution and ozone. While this year's findings show overall improvement in air quality across the country, vast steps are still required to ensure the health and safety of the American people in the future.
- New Rules For Industrial Waste Dumps in Your Drinking Water
- EPA proposes stricter controls on waterways (Washington Post):
"Its an incredible mess", said Jon Devine, a senior attorney in the Natural Resources Defense Councils water program. He noted that just this week a federal jury in Massachusetts ruled against an individual who, without having a permit, filled in wetlands to grow cranberries, but the case dated from 1999 and could still be subject to appeal.
Its a big deal because the resources matter, Devine said of the new guidance.
- Jury Rules for EPA in 21-Year Battle with Cranberry Farmer (Greenwire):
One of U.S. EPA's longest ongoing enforcement matters is about to be wrapped up after a federal jury ruled this week that the Clean Water Act protects 46 acres of wetlands filled in by a Massachusetts cranberry farmer more than two decades ago.
- WETLANDS: Obama Admin Softens Bid To Strengthen Clean Water Act Regulations (Greenwire)
- EPA Continues Farm Exemption From Water Rules (Des Moines Register)
- D'OH!: Democrats Pressure House Speaker John Boehner On Eliminating Oil Subsidies:
- Pump pain, Big Oil gain: Oil giants post massive Q1 profits, demand huge subsidies (Climate Progress)
- CHART: Boehner Open to Eliminating Oil Subsidies --- But What Are We Actually Spending? (Sunlight Foundation)
- Good breakdown of the subsides Big Oil enjoys at our expense (CNN)
- Reid: Cut oil tax breaks as soon as possible (The Hill)
- Obama Calls On Oil Producers to Increase Output (Reuters)
- Bush's chief economist schools Bush and GOP: Domestic drilling won't lower gas prices (Climate Progress)
- White House: Oil industry subsidies 'simply crazy' amid high gas prices, profit reports (The Hill)
- WATCH: Less Than Two Months After GOP Voted To Preserve Billions In Taxpayer Oil Subsidies, Boehner Now Opposes Them [And Then Reverses Again] (Think Progress):
According to Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, Boehner now supports oil subsidies again. Although the speaker told Jonathan Karl that the government needs to increase revenues (i.e. raise taxes) and that the oil depletion allowance should be dropped, according to Steel, that's not what happened:
The speaker made clear in the interview that raising taxes was a nonstarter, and he's told the president that. He simply wasn't going to take the bait and fall into the trap of defending 'Big Oil' companies.
- Watch the full interview: ABC News' Jonathan Karl Interviews Speaker of the House John Boehner with Transcript (ABC News)
- Boehner opens door to cutting U.S. oil tax breaks (Reuters) [emphasis added]:
Boehner's remarks echoed concerns expressed this month by President Barack Obama, who asked Congress to repeal $3.6 billion in annual oil, natural gas and coal subsidies, a move that would total $46.2 billion over a decade and help pay for clean energy initiatives.
Boehner also suggested that Obama could lose the 2012 election if gas prices do not decline.
- President Obama to Congress: "I Hope We Can All Agree That, Instead of Continuing to Subsidize Yesterday's Energy Sources, We Need to Invest in Tomorrow's" (White House blog)
- Seeing opening, White House pounces on Boehner's words (The Hill)
- Big Break for Big Oil, Larger Burden for Taxpayers (Center for Public Integrity):
Taxpayers can't escape paying what they owe the U.S. Treasury. But for big oil companies who owe billions in royalties, it's another matter.
- Obama says new task force will examine gas prices (AP)
- Past votes signal uphill fight on oil industry tax breaks (The Hill)
- Big Oil Profits From High Gas Prices, Fights to Keep $4 Billion in Annual Taxpayer Subsidies:
- Exxon Profit Surges Amid Consumer Discontent on Gasoline Prices (BusinessWeek)
- Exxon seeks to pre-empt profit fury (The Hill)
- BP gets $13-billion tax credit for Gulf oilspill (SF Gate)
- As Gulf Coast suffers, BP Q1 profits soar to $7 billion (Climate Progress)
- Washington is lying to you about the cause of high gas prices (Grist) [emphasis added]:
When it comes to the causes of high prices for gasoline, Washington is reaching truly epic levels of mendacity.
Further oil exploration, as Murkowski recommends, won't lower gas prices. The U.S. Energy Information Agency's Administrator, Richard Newell:
"Long term, we do not project additional volumes of oil that could flow from greater access to oil resources on Federal lands to have a large impact on prices given the globally integrated nature of the world oil market and the more significant long-term compared to short-term responsiveness of oil demand and supply to price movements."
- Latest Developments in Japan's Ongoing Nuclear Crisis:
- Radiation readings in Fukushima reactor rise to highest since crisis began (Bloomberg)
- Asbestos, Japan tsunami's other hidden danger (AP)
- TEPCO Filling Containment Vessels; Experts Raise Doubts (Asahi Daily)
- Evacuees Get Home Visits of Five Hours (Japan Times)
- Tsunami Quickens 'Terminal Decline' of Northern Japan's Fishing Industry (Bloomberg)
'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...
- America's Nuclear Nightmare (Rolling Stone) [emphasis added]:
The U.S. has 31 reactors just like Japan's - but regulators are ignoring the risks and boosting industry profits.
But there was one problem with [Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission]'s testimony, according to Dave Lochbaum, a senior adviser at the Union of Concerned Scientists: Key elements of what the NRC chief told Congress were "a baldfaced lie."
Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer, says that Jaczko knows full well that what the NRC calls "defense in depth" at U.S. reactors has been seriously compromised over the years.
- New Study Maps Nuclear Reactor Safety Worldwide (Columbia Univ. Earth Institute):
A new study in Nature News, "Residents, Reactors, and Risk," finds that that many of the world's nuclear power plants are surrounded by large numbers of people.
- Google's goal of making solar, renewables cheaper than coal (Reuters Biz Green)
- Who Owns Your Future? Would you bet your future on the chance that climate change isn't real? (Huffington Post Green):
If your electrician tells you that there is a 30 percent risk that your house will set on fire if you do not change your cables, would you call another electrician? If the next electrician confirms the 30 percent risk, would you hire a third, fourth or fifth electrician in the hope of finding one who would reject the risk? Imagine that you talked to 100 electricians --- 97 recommend that you should change the cables, three reject the risk of fire --- who would you listen to? My guess is that you would change the cables immediately.
When it comes to climate change the picture is completely upside down. Regardless of the fact that 97 percent of the world's leading climate scientists agree that human-caused global warming is real, several journalists, experts and politicians still continue to question the reality and the seriousness of global warming. They continue to question the 97 percent of the climate scientists' findings, motives, and recommendations --- as if they are teamed up in the greatest scientific plot in history.
- Chief Offshore Oil Drilling Regulator Criticizes Lack of Oversight and Promises Fixes (Pro Publica)
- "What Motivates a Climate Skeptic? (DeSmogBlog)
- A 21st-century water forecast (NYT Green):
The broad-brush conclusion of a new federal report on the future impact of climate change on water in the West is a bit familiar. Throughout the West, there will be less snow, and what snow there is will melt faster. The dry Southwest is going to get drier, and the wet Northwest wetter.
- Texas governor: Disaster could blow hole in budget (BusinessWeek):
"We can't afford [$70 million for wildfires]," says TX Gov spokeswoman. "That's why we asked [feds] for help."
- Is biomass energy as 'green' as the industry claims?: Unlikely Polluters (iWatch News)
- Energy Secretary Steven Chu on natural gas: water contamination has happened (NRDC Switchboard)
- New BPA Report Linked to Industry: Four authors of a new report concluding that bisphenol A is safe have ties to companies and groups that benefit from the controversial chemical. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
- Blowout Could Spill 58 Million Gallons in Arctic (AP):
The federal agency overseeing offshore drilling in Alaska says the worst-case scenario for a blowout in the Chukchi Sea lease could result in a spill of more than 58 million gallons of oil into Arctic waters.
- Royal wedding will be slightly greener wretched pile of excess than usual (Grist)
- Maine Bans BPA (Consumers Union)
- National coal expert: "Mining is a loser" in practically every way (Grist):
Anytime coal's cost to America is discussed, the coal industry reflexively talks about what an economic lifeline it is for the states in which it operates. Headwaters Economics, a Bozeman-based think tank focusing on natural resource issues, has a solid new study that's getting national attention for undercutting those claims. For instance, the Headwaters study finds that "fossil fuel production has not insulated energy-producing states from fiscal crisis," that "fossil fuel extraction has a limited influence at the state level on economic indicators such as GDP by state, personal income, and employment," and that "the volatility of fossil fuel markets poses obstacles to the stability and long-term security of economic growth in energy-producing regions."
This is a problem for the coal industry, which spends heavily to construct a fantasy world in which it's a "clean" industry to which we should feel grateful, a vital supplier of our power, and an economic lifeline to host communities.
But in the real world, coal's case is even weaker than the Headwaters study shows.