Thursday, September 18, 2008

News That Matters - September 18, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

"A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made."
- Governor Sarah Palin

Good Thursday Morning,

Today is World Water Monitoring Day
World Water Monitoring Day™ is an international education and outreach program that builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local water bodies. More Here

Somewhere around 1000 of you read this column on most days and yet only 15 have voted in our latest poll: How much more do you think it will cost to heat your home this winter than last? Come on and Vote!

On Tuesday afternoon Congress voted 236-189 to open our shores to oil exploration even though oil companies have millions of acres of land currently leased and laying fallow. Democrats felt they needed to remove "Drill Baby Drill!" from the lexicon of the Republican party and in return sold out our grand children's future for votes today. Shame on them.

In order to reduce the cost of gasoline you could just drive less. In order to save money on home heating oil you could better insulate and seal your house. Both of these things will conserve precious petro supplies and lower your personal costs. Drilling for more and additional extraction of various petro resources will not. You know that. Congress knows that. The President knows that.

But there are some things we cannot make without oil, items which are ever-present in our lives... like plastics, for one. Look around your home or office and see how much of what catches your gaze is made from plastic. Right now there is no alternative other than petroleum and some experiments with vegetable oils. But the danger in shifting our food production to energy and plastics production is already evident in the rising costs of basic groceries and food shortages that are now making their way around the third and fourth world and may soon come to a table near you.

Rather than drill for more oil and gas we should be launching a serious national effort for alternatives, conservation and innovation. Yeah, there's a few lines in the bill about directing a few dollars towards conservation efforts but the President, the very man who wanted this result in the first place has promised to veto the House version of the bill if the Senate does not give more freebies to the oil companies, allow drilling in the middle of Lake Oscawana and reduce the amount of monies proposed for energy and materials alternatives via higher leasing and sales fees.

At least he hasn't yet said about drilling, "It's a mission from God".

Sometimes our national policies simply boggle my mind. On the one hand you have Republicans fishing for votes by promising lower oil prices even though they know it's a lie and the only people who will benefit are the oil companies.

On the other hand you have national Democrats being Democrats by turning tail and giving the Republicans whatever they want. Not for any matter of importance, but simply for fear of losing votes.

Then you have a Republican President telling Congress he's going to veto the bill which gives his party what they wanted - though now Republicans are crying foul, they want more. And in between it all is an all too gullible electorate that wants what they want and demands it now whether it's good policy or not. So long as we're comfortable now and have no sacrifices to make we'll leave it to our kids to figure something out... assuming there's anything left for them when they get here.

And now, the News:

  1. Environmentalists balk at drilling off NJ coast
  2. Community Forests and Open Space Program
  3. Berkeley Approves City-Backed Loans for Solar Panels
  4. Green Real Estate Is Not Subprime
  5. The Greening of Music City
  6. Psychologists Vote to End Interrogation Consultations

Environmentalists balk at drilling off NJ coast

By WAYNE PARRY – 2 hours ago

AVON, N.J. (AP) — With oil and gas drilling heating up as an issue in the presidential race, environmentalists and the governor reiterated their opposition to tapping reserves off the state's coast, saying it would endanger the environment and the tourism industry on which New Jersey is so dependent.

"It is a dark, dark day for the natural coast. Some might say it's as black as oil," said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, who joined environmental and fishing groups at a news conference Wednesday on the Avon boardwalk. Gov. Jon Corzine reiterated his opposition Tuesday in a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.

The House late Tuesday passed legislation that would open waters 50 miles off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts to oil and natural gas development — if the adjacent states agree to go along. The legislation now goes to the Senate.

New Jersey — joined by California and North Carolina — has so far refused to go along, meaning exploration could take place no closer than 100 miles offshore under the current proposal.

Read More

Community Forests and Open Space Program

The Appalachian Mountain Club is seeking your support for the new Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program that was authorized through the 2008 Farm Bill. This new program will provide 50-50 matching grants for local governments, Indian tribes, and non-profit organizations to purchase community forests. The grants also come with technical assistance through state forestry agencies.

We see this new program as a remarkable opportunity to support the growing wave of community forest interest and activity across the country.  The challenge will be getting adequate funding appropriated for the new program at a time when budgets in Washington are tight.

Read More

Berkeley Approves City-Backed Loans for Solar Panels

Published: September 17, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO — The Berkeley City Council moved late Tuesday to eliminate one of the biggest obstacles to making homes more energy-efficient: the upfront cost.

Berkeley's Sustainable Energy Financing ProjectIn a move being watched by other cities around the country, the Council unanimously approved a program to give city-backed loans to property owners who install rooftop solar-power systems. The loans, which are likely to total up to $22,000 apiece, would be paid off over 20 years as part of the owners’ property-tax bills.

While the more conventional approach of government rebates and tax breaks is being tried by the State of California and many other jurisdictions, this is the first time that a special property tax district has been created expressly to help retrofit homes and businesses to reduce electrical use. In Berkeley, these districts have previously been used to pay for neighborhood improvements, like burying electrical wiring.

Property owners can opt to join the new district, which was established by the council vote. The final piece of the puzzle, however, is still missing: a deal with a lender whose capital the city would use to finance the program.

Read More

Green Real Estate Is Not Subprime

By 2012, Green Building Could Represent 20% of the Market

Here's some shocking news in a down real estate economy: the green home building market could triple by 2012, or in just three and a half years.

The study that revealed that this part of the market is moving beyond anything expected was released at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Green Building Conference. It was conducted by McGraw-Hill Construction and focused on changes in green building activity between 2001 and 2007.

The green building market is definitely on the rise. For example, it is estimated to comprise between $12 and $20 billion of the entire new construction market, or six to ten percent. By 2012, this amount will double or triple to 12-20 percent, or $40-$70 billion. One surprise the survey showed was that when it comes to building green, quality is now as important as pricing. The choice of green construction is not simply about affordability, it’s about the ways it will impact a home buyers quality of life.

In other words, going green is quickly becoming a "lifestyle" choice as well as a commitment to sustainability.

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The Greening of Music City

The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee, or the Metro, has several initiatives underway to reduce environmental impacts, and maintain Nashville as a sustainable city.

Mayor, Karl Dean established the Green Ribbon Committee on Environmental Sustainability to ensure Nashville is a “livable city with clean air, clean water, open spaces, transportation infrastructure and an energy use profile necessary to provide a prosperous community for current and future generations.”

To do so, the city is improving energy efficiency throughout current and future buildings, and using eco products to create greener buildings. A vegetated roof using common Sedum species, a succulent plant that is drought-tolerant, is currently underway at the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center. Nashville’s historic courthouse also contains a green roof atop the building’s parking structure. The roofs will provide energy savings as they'll insulate the buildings from solar radiation. The vegetation will also absorb rainwater, saving Nashville’s storm water collection system from energy intensive treatment processing.

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Psychologists Vote to End Interrogation Consultations

Published: September 17, 2008

Members of the American Psychological Association have voted to prohibit consultation in the interrogations of detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, or so-called black sites operated by the Central Intelligence Agency overseas, the association said on Wednesday.

The vote, 8,792 to 6,157 in a mail-in balloting concluded Monday, may help to settle a long debate within the profession over the ethics of such work. Psychologists have helped military and C.I.A. interrogators evaluate detainees, plan questioning strategy and judge its psychological costs. The association’s ethics code, while condemning a list of coercive techniques adopted in the Bush administration’s antiterrorism campaign, has allowed some consultation “for national security-related purposes.”

The referendum, first posted on the Internet as a petition in May, prohibits psychologists from working in settings where “persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the U.N. Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the U.S. Constitution, where appropriate,” unless they represent a detainee or an independent third party. The association’s bylaws require that it institute the policy at the next annual meeting, in August 2009.

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