The deaths of 23 Honduran farmers involved in land disputes with UN-approved palm oil plantations are raising an international outcry against alleged "human rights abuses." EurActiv reports members of the European Parliament (EP) are planning an investigative mission to Honduras this month while others are calling for a ban on carbon credits to the plantations under the EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS). Additionally, it says the UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is weighing its validation process that originally accredited the plantations, a process critics call "only rudimentary, completely unregulated and badly documented."
Protests erupted in July when six international human rights advocacy groups presented a report to the EP detailing what they called murders and forced evictions of peasants in El Bajo Aguán Valley of northern Honduras. The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) report accuses UN-sanctioned palm oil mills of stealing farmland from Honduran natives and killing or wounding them when they attempt to defend their property. It says the companies, acting with government impunity, regularly target members of local land-rights movements who end up murdered in feigned car accidents or hunted down and shot by private security guards.
Claiming that the United States “can’t afford” to lose the race to develop the technologies necessary for a transition to a green economy, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank defended the dispersal of millions of dollars in federal funds to the winners of the government’s i6 Green Challenge.
The i6 Green Challenge is undeniably a very small program; the challenge website acknowledges that approximately $12 million was available for “proof of concept” models. Under business-as-usual in Washington, D.C., the expenditure of $12 million would look like a departmental rounding error. In part, the i6 Green Challenge awards will receive a measure of public scrutiny because of the scandal surrounding President Obama’s favorite (at least until recently) example of a corporation of the new “green economy” — Solyndra — which recently found itself under investigation in connection with $535 million in loan guarantees that it had received from the federal government. The image of Solyndra being raided by FBI agents may continue to linger for a time — much to the chagrin of the President and his standard bearers in government and the media.
An article for CNSNews (“Acting Commerce Secretary: Despite Failures, ‘U.S. Can’t Afford’ Not to Subsidize Green Tech”) highlights the “good money after bad” strategy being employed by the White House: In short, pay no attention to the scandals and lack of success — the “green economy” must be pursued at any cost.
Obama Admin. Expands Endangered Species Act. Caving in to pressure from environmental groups, the Obama Administration's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is set expand the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to include more than 800 new species of plants and animals. FWS signed two agreements in federal court, one with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), and another with WildEarth Guardians (WEG) in which the parties agreed to a timeline for review of the individual species' cases through 2018. The agreements end a number of lawsuits against FWS by various environmental organizations, including CBD and WEG, over species they claim FWS has ignored.
FWS is acting quickly to hold up its end of the bargain. On Monday it approved 374 new species for possible ESA inclusion, based on review of an ongoing 60-day public comment period. Some of the candidates for federal protection have obscure names like the Florida sandhill crane, the green floater mussel and the black rail bird. Others are more familiar, including the American wolverine, the Mexican gray wolf and the Pacific walrus.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to tighten regulations on natural gas drilling based on grossly exaggerated estimates of greenhouse-gas emissions, according to new industry research.
In its report MisMeasuring Methane: Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Upstream Natural Gas Development, the independent energy analysis firm IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) reveals, "EPA's current methodology for estimating gas field methane emissions is not based on methane emitted during well completions, but paradoxically is based on a data sample of methane captured during well completions." (Emphasis in original.)
The agency's meager "data sample" is based on two slide presentations made at EPA-sponsored workshops, one in 2004 and one in 2007. CERA researchers explain that EPA recorded captured methane at a small sample of wells and now assumes every well in the country releases equivalent levels of methane without operators capturing any of it.
It took one man, working tirelessly in his private laboratory, to light up the world. The invention of the electric light bulb by Thomas A. Edison was the work of an individual, not a collective, not the government. Yet its impact on the world was greater, more productive, and more beneficial than anything that 10,000 government bureaucrats could dream up. The purpose of the government was to secure Edison’s God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It was not to help him invent anything. Its purpose was to leave him alone to do what he did best: invent new wonders that changed the world.
But today, the government can’t keep its hands off anything, including Edison’s great invention. Through a new law entitled “The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act,” the government has mandated phasing out Edison’s remarkable invention and replacing it with a more expensive Compact Flourescent Light Bulb (CFL), which according to lighting engineer Howard Brandston, poses a risk to public health and safety. He testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on March 11, stating the following:
The compact fluorescent lamp contains mercury. One gram of mercury will pollute a two-acre pond. This 2007 light bulb standard brings a deadly poison into every residence in our nation.
We do not have enough knowledge of the potential consequences of being continuously exposed to the electromagnetic field that compact florescent lamps emit. There are millions of people in this country with lupus, an auto-immune disease. Exposure to low doses of light from these lamps causes a severe rash.
Despite ongoing controversy over the federal government’s scandalous loan guarantee to the now-bankrupt Solyndra, a $25 billion green-car loan fund has managed to avoid the congressional guillotine. The Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program, which was established during the Bush years and began dispensing funds during the Obama administration, is designed to provide debt capital to the auto industry and assist manufacturers in retooling facilities and equipment and improving fuel economy for vehicles manufactured in the United States.
In his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama vowed to "break our dependence on oil" and pledged that the United States would "become the first country to have one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015." Considering the ATVM loan program and consumer offerings such as Cash for Clunkers, the President’s proclamation is not a market goal, but a government goal, and as he perceives it, such a target is only achievable through government-sponsored loans and subsidies.
The ATVM program has become a hot target for conservatives, but Senate Republicans choked legislative efforts from House Republicans to shave the $25 billion program by $1.5 billion to help avert a government shutdown and outweigh new spending for disaster relief.
Republican Representative Darrell Issa has been portrayed by the media as being one of the more fiscally conservative members of the House. A recent revelation contradicts that portrayal, as it has been discovered that Issa has been trying to redirect federal money for green jobs in his own district in California.
In January of 2010, Issa sent a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu asking for his support on a federal loan for an electric car maker. The letter read, “Awarding this opportunity to Aptera Moters will greatly assist a leading developer of electric vehicles in my district.”
The letter surfaced after Issa was harshly critical of the Obama administration for its crony capitalism on behalf of two companies: Solyndra and Lightsquared. With Solyndra, there have been high-profile hearings on the $535 million federal loan guarantee to the California solar power company that declared bankruptcy last month. In the case of LightSquared, House Armed Services Committee Republicans are expressing support for an "aggressive investigation" into why the company received regulatory approvals from the FCC despite well-documented concerns that its planned satellite-terrestrial broadband network would interfere with GPS — including national security.
As the Solyndra bankruptcy debacle begins to unwind, President Obama and political leaders will find that an increasingly bright light is shone on the federal government’s mischievous administration of green energy loans and subsidies. William Yeatman, energy policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) — a think tank promoting free markets and limited government — testified at a House Water and Power Subcommittee of the Natural Resources Committee hearing Thursday on a contentious loan program orchestrated by the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), a power marketing administration within the U.S. Department of Energy.
Packaged in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) — Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus plan — the $3.25 billion WAPA loan was authorized to finance various energy projects relating to renewable energy generation. Naturally, the solar technology manufacturer Solyndra, and its controversial bankruptcy, recent FBI raid, and special-interest scandal that left taxpayers on the hook for $535 million, has brought into question the financial viability of taxpayer-funded investments in green energy.
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the TRAIN Act, which calls for establishing a committee to analyze the economic impact of recent regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Representatives John Sullivan (R-Okla.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah) introduced the bill in May. "TRAIN" is short for the bill's imposing title, "Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011."
"Taxpayers deserve an honest accounting how much EPA's regulations are costing our economy and hurting American consumers," declared Sullivan. "[T]he EPA's regulatory train wreck is killing our economy and costing American jobs."
The bill includes an amendment to delay EPA's Utility MACT (maximum achievable control technology) and new transport rules which set unprecedented emissions standards on large institutions. It forces EPA's rules to wait six months after completion of the TRAIN Act analysis.
Regardless of global temperatures, fewer people are dying from extreme weather events, according to a new study published by the libertarian think tank Reason Foundation. Its research revealed the global weather-related death rate has declined by 98 percent since the 1920s. Deaths from severe weather now contribute only 0.07 percent to global mortality.
The authors analyzed more than a century of data and chronicled deaths caused by extreme weather worldwide between 1900 and 2010. They found the most dangerous decade to be 1920 to 1929 when 241 deaths per million people in the world occurred annually. That number declined to 208 in the 1930s and reached an astounding low at 5.4 deaths per million per year from 2000 to 2010. They noted the impressiveness of these statistics "in spite of a four-fold rise in population and much more complete reporting of such events." The discovery led them to title their report Wealth and Safety: The Amazing Decline in Deaths from Extreme Weather in an Era of Global Warming, 1900-2010.