Archive for December 2011
It took a while—20 years!—but the EPA’s historic decision to regulate mercury emissions are cause for a major celebration and at least a dollop of optimism that the U.S. is on the right environmental path heading into the new year. That is if the Republicans don’t mess it all up by winning the White House in November. (Writing that just sent a major chill up my spine.)
Not long ago I wrote about how a few miniscule drops of mercury can contaminate a 20-acre lake and the fish that happen to reside there, thanks to coal-fired plant emissions. That’s a major reason why the EPA’s decision to regulate the emissions of mercury, lead and other toxic pollutants from coal- and oil-fired plants is a major victory for the health and environmental welfare of the nation. And for jobs.
Please ignore the scare tactics from Big Coal and right-wing wackos about blackouts, job losses and energy security risks as a result of the rules. That’s their big lie and they are sticking to it no matter what.
“Congress ordered the EPA to regulate toxic air pollution more than 20 years ago when it passed the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990,” said Rachel Cleetus, senior climate economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The EPA has been regulating most industries up until now, except for the biggest polluters—coal and oil-fired power plants. The public health benefits far outweigh the costs. And contrary to the doomsday predictions of industry and their allies in Congress, the lights will stay on.” Read the rest of this entry »
I believe it is. Police can break up the various “Occupy” camps across the country, but they can’t break the movement. As disorganized, disparate and disheveled as some would like to believe Occupy Wall Street and its regional allies are, the barn door is open and the horse is romping freely in the field.
This could well be the early stages of a new progressive movement, according to Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. The Occupy gatherings “are most likely the start of a new era in America,” he wrote in a recent New York Times article.
“Historians have noted that American politics moves in long swings,” he continued. “We are at the end of the 30-year Reagan era, a period that has culminated in soaring income for the top 1 percent and crushing unemployment or income stagnation for much of the rest. The overarching challenge of the coming years is to restore prosperity and power for the 99 percent.”
The roots of today’s crises of vast income and wealth inequality, corporate dominance and feckless, inept elected leaders lie with the direction that Reagan took the nation – making government the problem, slashing taxes for the rich along with outlays on public services and infrastructure investment, and sweeping deregulation.
“Reagan’s was a fateful misdiagnosis,” Sachs says. “He completely overlooked the real issue — the rise of global competition in the information age — and fought a bogeyman, the government. Decades on, America pays the price of that misdiagnosis, with a nation singularly unprepared to face the global economic, energy and environmental challenges of our time.”
And yet Washington “still channels Reaganomics… Both parties have joined in crippling the government in response to the demands of their wealthy campaign contributors, who above all else insist on keeping low tax rates on capital gains, top incomes, estates and corporate profits. Corporate taxes as a share of national income are at the lowest levels in recent history. Rich households take home the greatest share of income since the Great Depression.”
The American people are waking up and the OWS movement wants to challenge and change the channel of inequality.
“Following our recent financial calamity, a third progressive era is likely to be in the making,” Sachs writes. “This one should aim for three things. The first is a revival of crucial public services, especially education, training, public investment and environmental protection. The second is the end of a climate of impunity that encouraged nearly every Wall Street firm to commit financial fraud. The third is to re-establish the supremacy of people votes over dollar votes in Washington.”
Sachs says the people in Zuccotti Park and more than 1,000 cities have put the nation on a path to renewal.
While it’s hard to think in absolute terms about something so new, something without central leadership or a written platform, the need to reverse obvious flaws has touched a chord.
Perhaps, as Sachs says, a new generation of leaders who are not on the corporate take is just getting started. Perhaps it is history in the making and the dawn of a new progressive era. Perhaps it needs to be the crowd-sourcing movement it is and not a party or corporation or organization that’s easily corrupted and dominated by the wealthiest few. Perhaps the pendulum—as pendulums do—is swinging back.
Yeah, that’s a lot of perhaps – but one thing is certain – the OWS idea. A tent can be taken down and people can be dispersed with pepper spray. Not an idea.
Hey kids! Here’s an idea: Let’s inundate the global market with our cheap dirty coal! We won’t be burning and polluting the atmosphere here in the U.S., merely transporting the coal on 1.5-mile long trains through densely populated areas of the Pacific Northwest, where it will be exported to foreign markets. We’ll boost our exports, help our balance of trade and create jobs!
That’s the gist of the coal industry’s argument for proposals to export tens of millions of tons of coal through the Pacific Northwest to China and other Asian nations.
But major organizations including the Sierra Club, the Sierra Student Coalition, Climate Solutions and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility are gearing up to derail the coal train idea. Read the rest of this entry »