Roundup Tuesday September 8, 2009

1.  Energy makeover illustrates potential of green jobs—Judy Fahys, SLT 9/5/09

Salt Lake Community College Green Academy is putting the finishing touches on a Kearns-area project home, dubbed an “Idea House”.  The foreclosed home has been renovated with energy-efficient appliances, additional insulation and a 3-kilowatt solar panel system among other efficiency upgrades.  Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, dropping by with a handful of Utah legislators, called the green-leaning home “impressive.”

“This is a wonderful example of what we can do,” Herbert added, with thanks to the Community Development Corporation of Utah, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake Community College and the Utah Solar Association (USA).  USA president Orrin Farnsworth sees programs such as the community college’s Green Academy filling a skyrocketing market need.

“The demand is so high,” Farnsworth said of this year’s business, “we can’t get enough people trained fast enough to get the job done.”  Farnsworth notes that the green technology job market is expected to increase by 40,000 positions a year across the nation.  USA reported a 25-30% price drop last year, making systems much more affordable.  A mid-sized system like the Kearns one could run about $25,000 before incentives, which would cut thousands off the bill.

New battery and solar cell products too are dropping system prices, at a time when climate legislation is expected to increase electricity bills.  Tax credits and rebates currently are complemented by a 30% federal energy credit.  Utah could also see additional in-state incentives sponsored by enthusiastic legislators.

USA’s executive director speculated of the Kearns home; “It’s realistic to potentially have no energy bills.”  Farnsworth was very optimistic over the shift to a greener job market and economy.  “It’s all about jobs,” Farnsworth commented, “and Utah has the biggest potential in the country because of the environment,”—and Utah’s workforce.

2.  Hunters pass on opening day of dolphin season—NPR 9/5/09

Dolphin hunting season opened in Japan this week, a six month season when dolphins are rounded up by the thousands in narrow coves and taken captive for aquariums and amusement parks seeking to feature dolphins.  A number are killed for consumption.  The fishing village of Taiji was the site for a covert 2009 documentary titled The Cove, which has changed dolphin hunting traditions in the village.

While filming was barred by law enforcement as well as village fishers, activists and filmmakers working undercover produced the documentary which won the Audience Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and produced international outcry.  Taiji’s sister city in Western Australia, Broome, reacted by ceasing its partnership as long as dolphins are being killed.

Activist Ric O’Barry, the film’s main persona, returned to Taiji with a cadre of international journalists for the season’s opening day, but observed neither dolphin killing nor fishing.  Of the day he blogged, “Today is a good day for dolphins.”

Optimism is tempered with caution, as he sees the hunters contemplating their future.  “’Should we go out?  Should we be exposed?  The world is watching.’  And so far, they haven’t killed any dolphins.”  O’Barry adds, “I’m hoping it’s over, that they’ll just give up and stop killing dolphins.”  On the other hand, he recognizes the situation is far from over.  “We don’t know what’s going to happen.  It’s a day-by-day thing here.  We just don’t know.”

3.  Obama ‘Green Jobs’ adviser quits amid controversy—AP, NPR 9/6/09

Environmental advisor to the Obama administration Van Jones has quit amid an uproar following past statements he made in relation to Republicans and the 2001 terrorist attacks.  Jones called the backlash a “vicious smear campaign against me.  The administration received notice unexpectedly by e-mail Sunday.  Working with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Jones was the administration’s “green jobs” specialist.

A spokesman for the Obama administration said the president did not endorse the comments made by Jones, but was grateful for his service.  “What Van Jones decided was that the agenda of this president was bigger than any one individual,” the spokesman said, adding Jones “understood he was going to get in the way,” becoming a liability for the administration.

Thursday, Jones issued an apology for the previous statements.  News reports said Jones made a derogatory comment about Republicans, and his name appeared on a 2004 petition seeking congressional hearings and investigations into the possibility that top-level government officials had allowed the 2001 terrorist attacks to occur.

Jones replied in his statement of resignation; “On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me.  They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide.”  Former Democratic National Committee head Howard Dean said on “Fox News Sunday” that Jones was “brought down” and called the resignation “a loss to the country.”

While Jones admits he has been deluged with calls from liberals, conservatives and all points in between urging him to “stay and fight”, he recognizes the energy and time the administration would spend away from more important issues.  An earlier statement by Jones denied that the petition’s views on the terrorist attacks ever mirrored his views.  Of other statements he made, Jones said; “If I have offended anyone with statements I made in the past, I apologize.”

Republicans demanded Jones’s resignation.  A statement from Indiana Rep. Mike Pence read; “His extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this administration or the public debate.”  Senator Christopher Bond of Missouri called for a congressional investigation into Jones’s job fitness.  Glenn Beck of the Fox News Channel denounced Jones after Jones’s  promoted an advertising boycott against the show Beck hosts to protest the claim that Obama is a racist.

ColorofChange’s executive director disputed the idea that Jones was connected with the group or evolution of the campaign.  Jones has been very familiar to the environmental movement and a California civil rights activist ahead of his environmental/energy focus.  While he has promoted a broad view for a green economy, conservatives have bashed him for left-wing political views.

The chair of the Council on Environmental Quality accepted his resignation and expressed gratitude for his service.  “Over the last six months, he had been a strong voice for creating jobs that improve energy efficiency and utilize renewable resources,” she responded.  “We appreciate his hard work and wish him the best moving forward.”

4.  No scientists or environmentalists at Herbert & Hatch’s cap-and-trade forum—Elizabeth Ziegler, KCPW Salt Lake City 9/3/09

A public forum hosted at Utah’s capital today by Governor Gary Herbert and Senator Orrin Hatch on the federal cap-and-trade bill in Congress will hear only from speakers who apparently reject the legislation, though Herbert commented to reporters last week that he sought to hear from all sides of the climate change debate and wanted to focus on the science.  “It should be about scientific opinion that leads public opinion.  I support President Barack Obama when he said, ‘Let’s let the science and not ideology dictate what policy is,” Herbert said last week.

The forum, however, has no scientist or environmental group on the agenda.  Representatives of agriculture and the oil industry are expected to comment on the financial impact of the bill.  Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club’s Clair Jones was surprised.  “It’s really mystifying to me why [Herbert] would then be so quick to host a cost-benefit analysis of the Waxman-Markey bill without even inviting anyone who can accurately represent the benefit that this bill could have for our state.”

A spokeswoman said Herbert was attending the event at the behest of Senator Hatch.  She added that Herbert was still committed to a larger, more elaborate climate change forum where scientists and environmental groups would be represented alongside others.

5.  Hatch, Herbert dislike cap-and-trade measure—Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News 9/4/09

Some of Utah’s leaders predicted economic catastrophe should the cap-and-trade legislation in Congress become law in Thursday’s forum on the legislation at the state capitol.  “It is very telling that India, China and Mexico have all balked at committing to strong carbon reductions,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah spoke.  “The fact of the matter is that even with US and European leadership, we could very well end up going it alone.  Considering the pain Utahns would be asked to bear, and the loss of competitiveness for our entire nation, Waxman-Markey is a risk I am not willing to take.”

The forum, hosted by Senator Hatch and Governor Herbert, outlined potential costs of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, HR2454.  Senior leaders from the Utah Petroleum Association and the Utah Farm Bureau Federation as well as Utah power supplier representatives were on hand for the forum.  Attendees criticized across-the-board price hikes that they say Utahns can expect if utility companies, refineries, farmers and ranchers must cut carbon emissions or buy emissions allowances.

Statistically, critics said gas prices would jump at least 20 cents by 2012 and $1.38 per gallon by 2035, not counting unforeseen impacts like shortages or hurricanes.  Agricultural exports that topped $115 billion in 2007 would be threatened by US competitors who wouldn’t have to operate under the same stringent, expensive laws.  Electrical utilities expect to raise rates by double-digits.

National job losses from the bill in economic studies stretch from The Brookings Institution’s find that 1.7 million would be lost annually to the Heritage Foundation’s 2.5 million predicted job losses per year between 2035 and 2050.  The Heritage Foundation also predicts 24,000 jobs will be lost in Utah per year under the bill with a $4 billion gross product base loss in the state in 2035.

Deseret Power’s head declared the bill especially punitive to Utah and other Intermountain West states due to the states’ reliance on coal.  A Rocky Mountain Power executive argued that attainable renewable energy goals for both industry and consumers was better than having carbon emitting businesses buy expensive allowances.  She added that all-electric cars would still need a dependable power source.  “Give us our goals and let us manage our goals.  Don’t give us cap-and-trade,” the executive said.

“Cap and Trade:  The Cost to Utah” is available at Hatch’s website:

6.  Oregon group connects local timber owners with local homebuilders—Matthew Preusch, The Oregonian 9/3/09

In homes like the Grangers’ home in Portland, native Bigleaf maple provides flooring, Douglas fir from the coast range provides the trim, and counters were provided from walnut trees that once grew in the yard.  Portland is home to a burgeoning movement that seeks to do for homebuilding what the eat-local movement has done for local growers and producers.

“We have a real opportunity here to not only connect people with wood, but connect them with the forest ecosystems that provide that wood,” Ecotrust’s director of forestry said.  Most homes have been fashioned from products of nameless origin, homogenized by builders, home supply stores, lumber yards, mills and forest owners.  Knowing the provenance of one’s accoutrements of home has a special appeal, much like the connections the eat-local movement cultivates.

The Grangers had reducing the carbon footprint of construction of their home in mind last year when they began work on the new structure.  “It’s nice to know where your wood comes from, that it’s not just from China,” Julie Granger said.  They hired Stephen Aiguier of local design and build firm Green Hammer.  Aiguier and a local timberland owner formed the Build Local Alliance in 2005 to form a local-only supply chain between architects, homebuilders, contractors, lumber yards and forest owners.

The alliance has expanded to 150 members offering quality wood and a sustainable source.  Local forest owners in the alliance offer a sustainable alternative to industrial tree farming and receive supportive business while development and sprawl threatens small local timberlands.  “In the same way the local food movement is driven by quality, a lot of this is driven by builders and customers just wanting quality material,” Alliance co-founder and timber owner Peter Hayes said.  “It’s not necessarily about saving the earth or a certain type of forestry.  It’s about a quality product.”

Hayes, a member of the Oregon Board of Forestry, and his family manages three Coast Range forests west of Portland.  His forestry values emphasize ecological values such as water quality and wildlife habitat while working to make a profit.  Mono-culture tree farms featuring Oregon’s moneymaker the Douglas fir have been supplanted with diverse species.  Aiguier brings sustainably grown timber to customers who appreciate such species as maples that often are removed from industrial forests to make way for popularly consumed species.

Speaking of his knotty maple floors made of Aiguier’s trees, Bob Granger said they “ended up superb.”  While the idea is good, and customers are likely to appreciate the concept, Hayes and others do not believe it would be practical on a large scale.  They’re working on wholesale distribution for small foresters that would keep tree products in the neighborhood.

Alliance member Sustainable Northwest has opened a lumber yard in Vancouver that features all wood products like trim, flooring or two-by-fours from northern California, Oregon or Washington forests.  Lumber companies like Parr Lumber that specially market the wood or warehouse the product for consumers looking for a locally-sourced product are Sustainable’s customers.

“While there was a fairly robust land base and milling infrastructure and demand for the product, all too often the market connection was not being made.  The reason was there often was not a standing supply of local inventory,” a Sustainable executive said.  “It’s surprising the growth we’ve had given economic conditions,” he added.

Currently prices for locally-grown or Forest Stewardship Council certified lumber runs 5-25% more than conventional lumber.  As efficiency increases in the supply chain, experts think the price will drop.  Aiguier calls it a small premium to pay to support responsible forestry and local business, and wants the local forest product trend to become as ubiquitous as seeking locally grown tomatoes.

“We’ve been pretty successful on a micro scale of getting local wood headed through local hands to local projects,” he remarked.  “But I think we’re at the point where we need to up the ante a little bit to move beyond the low-hanging fruit and start talking to larger builders and home supply stores.”

7.  Emissions linked to end of 2,000-year arctic trend—Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post 9/4/09

Anthropogenically created greenhouse gas emissions have brought to an end a 2,000-year Arctic cooling trend, a study published online in the journal Science said Thursday.  The study says Arctic temperatures over the last decade were warmer than at any time since 1 B.C.  Over a dozen lake sediment cores, glacier ice and Arctic tree ring records were tapped for the study, which shows in a broad sense industrial emission impacts on the Arctic’s millennium-long natural climate patterns.  The Science online study and one on the region issued Wednesday by the World Wildlife Fund predict sweeping changes both for the Arctic and the rest of the globe.

“It’s basically saying the greenhouse gas emissions are overwhelming the system,” one co-author, a visiting scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said.  Reconstructing the Arctic’s climate 2,000 years ago, 30 researchers from the US, Britain, Denmark, Norway, Canada and Finland brought diverse perspectives into the study.  One such perspective focused on the Earth’s wobble on its axis of rotation as it orbits the sun.  Climate skeptics have pointed to wobble as the current cause of global warming, but the recent study shows wobble accounted for the long Arctic cooling trend, a change present only in the last half-century.

In the study, researchers modeled the distance of the earth from the sun midsummer 2,000 years ago.  The models suggest the Earth was 620,000 miles closer to the sun back then.  The cooling trend in the Arctic follows from increasing distance since then, but the Earth is still moving away from the sun in its summertime orbit, a trend expected to last through the 21st century.  In contrast to the natural cycle, temperatures are about 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer.

Previous paleo-climate analyses of the region reached back only 400 years.  New lakebed sediment cores have offered a much older regional assessment.  The distribution of lakes in the Arctic makes the cores better than tree rings or glaciers for comprehensively sizing up the arctic’s past.  Issues from annual glacier melt to how much algae grew in the ice-free season became measurable.  An Arctic lake expert from Queen’s University called the sediments “a black box for the ecosystem,” pointing out they are both pristine and comprehensive in terms of the yearly biological and physical data they have collected.  “We have really strong barometers of what’s happening in the Arctic,” he added.

The director for the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder called the study significant for confirming scientific understanding of climate change over thousands of years.  Prominent climate change skeptic and Science and Environmental Policy Project head Fred Singer argues the study doesn’t reflect other findings regarding the Medieval Warm Period, a period between A.D. 800 and 1300 with warmer temperatures “than even the past 30 years,” Singer said.

Medieval Warm Period research has focused primarily on Europe, and the natural record produced by the Arctic suggests Arctic temps weren’t as warm.  One short period in the early 5th century saw Arctic temps approach recent summer temps.  The chairman of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment called the study a likely “seminal piece in the scientific literature” for the length of scale it offered climate scientists.  Parallels with computer modeling on Arctic temps over time offers scientists confidence in predictive modeling of warming in the Arctic and elsewhere, the study’s lead author noted.

The World Wildlife fund study attempts to illustrate the ways that Arctic shifts from global warming are likely to affect global weather patterns, impacting agriculture, forestry and water supplies worldwide.  The report’s lead author has said that recent Arctic warming “has triggered effects that will come back and affect the rest of the world, in terms of climate change.”  He argues that unless countries work together to significantly reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, higher Arctic temperatures would thaw the permafrost, leading to enormous greenhouse gas releases into the atmosphere.  Sea ice loss would lower the region’s natural sunlight reflectivity as well, and feedbacks from Arctic warming could get out of control.

8.  Recording the sounds of the West—Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times 9/4/09,0,1447793.story

Librarians Jeff Rice and Kenning Arlitsch are librarians with the Western Soundscape Archive, which maintains a digital database of sounds archived by the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah.  Recently the pair was out for several days collecting audio footage in Range Creek, a canyon billed as a treasure trove of archaic Indian artifacts that the University has taken under management.  Parabolic dish, Sennheiser microphones, a Sound Devices 50-gig recorder, portable recorder, lapel mikes, Sony recorder, bat detector, hydrophone for fish, lots of AA batteries and an SUV characterize the duo’s multi-day excursion.  Rice has fished for sounds in a beehive, near a coiled rattlesnake, in the roost of Mexican free-tail bats and close to elephant seals.

The longtime private ranch was first opened to the public only as recently as 2004, and remains carefully protected close to the Green River and Desolation Canyon in the sheer Book Cliffs region.  The isolation provides ripe context for sounds sans interference of man-made noise, sounds that are virtually endangered.  Past the ranch complex, the SUV moves off towards an open field, passing a log cabin yet before sunrise, caved in by a fallen cottonwood.  Ranch owner Budge Wilcox took over the 1,600 acre ranch in 1951.  Indians resided here en masse between AD 800 and 1350.  Wilcox’s son sold the canyon to the Bureau of Land Management in 2001.

The canyon has held a semi-mystical reputation.  Lectures have footnoted the place, speculation in local bars has grown ripe, while over the last 8 years, 400 sites replete with rock art, granaries, pit houses and so forth have been discovered, remnants of the ancient Fremont Indian culture, neighbors of the Anasazi.  Rice and Arlitsch hope to capture the aural environment the Fremont inhabited over 700 years ago.

“He gets out, grabs his gear and, just off the road, extends the legs of a tripod and fastens to the top a large, zucchini-shaped microphone.  He pulls a wind sock around it.  White and hairy, it looks like a plump Pekingese.  In the surrounding trees, a few whistles and squawks have begun,” Thomas Curwen reported.  He notes that Utah and the Southwest are “prized among recordists for minimal atmospheric attenuation, the humidity or air turbulence that alters and mutes sound waves.”

Other sound libraries include the Macaulay Library at Cornell, the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics in Ohio and the Florida Museum of Natural History.  The Marriott Library at the University of Utah focuses on sounds of the West.  Rice worked as a radio journalist and came up with the archive idea from leftover background sounds in interviews.  While pondering the archive idea and acting as an internet curator, he called the Marriott Library and connected with Arlitsch.  Arlitsch recognized the value and potential of an online archive accessible to anyone.

The archive was launched in 2007 on $15,000, and Rice cultivated archival material from Utah and other recordists.  A $350,000 federal grant matched by the university funds the project through the end of 2010.  Around 1,500 recordings catalog 90% of the birds in West’s 11 states, 95% of the frogs and toads, around 24 reptiles and almost a quarter of the mammals.

“The pallid light of dawn has begun to push the night aside,” Curwen writes.  “Rice likes what he is hearing.  The course of the creek is wide and slow, its sound less insistent.  He begins his recording by establishing the setting:  ‘5:02 a.m…July 1…Range Creek…70 degrees…Calm…4,890 elevation.’  In the east, Venus shines through a break in the clouds.”

Colleague Gordon Hempton says “the archive is as important as the photographs of Edward Curtis.  We can look at those images and even though we’re not in that moment, in a way we are.”  Hempton calls himself an “acoustic ecologist”, and his 30 years of recording has made him well aware of how rapidly soundscapes are disappearing.

Artist Maya Lin requested audio from Rice for her “What is Missing?” memorial in San Francisco, focusing on biodiversity and habitat loss.  Seeking Yellowstone River audio, Rice recorded in the park in May for several mornings at 45 minute stretches between 4:30 a.m. and the rise of automotive noise.  Lin and Rice both are commemorating the losses of people, places and animals around us.

“But if his work is elegiac, it is also exuberant.  Its appeal is visceral:  a moose stomping across a stream in Utah, thunderclaps in Oregon,” Curwen writes.  “His recording of boreal chorus frogs captures a distant train, and if you listen carefully to the waves at Nye Beach, Ore., you will hear the jingling leash of a dog running by.”

Rice sets up the recording system and he and Arlitsch and the reporter move down the road.  At the gate they walk on to the south.  In three days they have documented a night, two dawns, eight wild turkeys and hundreds of cicadas, “hidden one late afternoon inside a row of sunlit box elders, the unrelenting tsssssss suggesting the rhythmic intensity of a Phillip Glass score.  But it is the call of the noctournal poor will, captured late one night in the woods beside a meadow, that is the most exquisite,” Curwen pens.

Up a steep grade, they arrive at a large painted image, colored red by mountain mahogany.  The anthropomorph has broad shoulders, horns or maybe ears, faces east.  Between the horns is a patch of color reminiscent of fire.  On the ceiling, white handprints appear.  Archaeoacoustics is based on the premise that artifacts carry acoustic properties useful in illuminating the primitive culture.  One such set of studies has focused on how echoes impacted pictographs and petroglyphs.  Hempton has considered the possibility that fire rings mark the convergence of sounds from surrounding cliffs.

“Such theories are highly speculative, but here, beneath this pictograph, the sounds of the dawn rise up from the gentle bow of the river, the narrowing of the canyon:  the ebbing stridulations of the crickets, the incipient bird song and the gravelly purr of the creek,” Curwen writes.  “Chrrr.  Chrrr.  Chrrr.   Tsip.  Tsip.  Peew.  Peew.  Wzzzzzzzzzz.”

As Rice records the cave sounds, the intersection of past and present is for a brief time a place of speculation over what the Fremont might have heard while painting here, as silence goes the way of the Fremont.  The hope is that moments of silence such as this will offer a deeper connection to the canyon’s ecology past the rocks, pinyons, junipers and sky.  Meanwhile jets and ATVs scorch the soundscape beyond.

“To listen here is to step into the heat-seared, frostbitten, sun-blasted time of the Fremont.  It means exercising a deeper sentience, letting go of all expectations, to be thoughtless and anticipatory,” Curwen writes.  Quoting Hempton “with the simplicity of a koan,” Curwen quotes “You don’t know what you’re listening for because you haven’t heard it.”

A Cooper’s hawk startles in a stand of cottonwoods, loud, brusque, staccato.  Rice tracks it with the parabola dish at the road while it flies between a snag and the cliff, flashing a reddish-brown chest and white beneath the wings.

“Kek.  Kek.  Kek,” Curwen writes.  “A yellow-breasted chat flits from cottonwood to greasewood.  Chirrr-tweee.  Chirrr-tweee.

9.  NW power panel:  Save juice, build fewer plants—AP, Idaho Statesman 9/3/09

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council, which guides the Bonneville Power Administration, is advocating more compact fluorescent lightbulbs and fewer new carbon-emitting power plants in the Pacific Northwest.  The Council argues in a plan put forth Thursday that energy efficiency in homes, businesses and industry could go far in offsetting demands for more power in the four state region for the next 20 years.  Natural gas-fired plants and wind energy were in the plan, and coal was out.

Over the next 20 years, demand is projected to rise 1.2% per year.  The Council found that 85% of the demand could be achievable with greater efficiency, calling an aggressive efficiency plan “the most cost-effective and least-risky resource available.”  New power plants would cost twice as much.  The Council sets policy for the Administration in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

Executives with the BPA are required to follow the council’s 20-year plans.  Though investor-owned utilities are not governed by the plan, the council’s chair said they would in all likelihood view the plan as a blueprint.  Environmental groups were disappointed that the plan did not call for a reduction in present coal-fired electricity generation.

10.  ‘Green Jobs’ adviser’s past could stir trouble for White House at critical time—Fox 9/4/09

So-called “9/11 truthers”—Americans who say the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks may have been an inside job—are at the heart of the controversy surrounding President Obama’s “green jobs” adviser Van Jones.  Jones claims he didn’t read carefully a 2004 petition calling for an investigation into the Bush administration’s foreknowledge of the terrorist attacks.  Jones also apologized in his statement Thursday for inflammatory remarks made before joining the administration.

“In recent days some in the news media have reported on past statements I made before I joined the administration, some of which were made years ago.  If I have offended anyone with statements I made in the past, I apologize.  As for the petition [9/11 statement] that was circulated today, I do not agree with this statement and it certainly does not reflect my views now or ever.”

Jones signed the petition calling for then-New York Attorney Elliott Spitzer and others to launch an investigation into evidence that suggests “people within the current administration may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war.”  Other co-signers included former Rep. Cynthia McKinney and Code Pink co-founder Jodie Evans.

Wednesday Jones offered an apology for “offensive words” in February, when he called Republicans “assholes”.  He added the remarks did not in any way represent the views of the administration or its bipartisan efforts.  Past commentary by Jones could prove even more damaging for the administration and its health care and climate change efforts.

Racially charged language has been a mainstay for Jones, fingerpointing at “white polluters and the white environmentalists” for “steering poison” into minority and low-income communities.  Jones associated with a group that revered Mao Zedong, and declared himself a “communist” in the 1990’s.  The disclosures recall Obama’s denials of claims he was linked to radicals and overzealous activists.

The incident could hamstring Obama at a time when he most needs consensus built around health care reform, a level of consensus that was unavailable to President Clinton.  “In this environment, I think the Obama administration should be very careful of its dealings with anybody who can be labeled communist accurately,” a Georgetown University adjunct government professor said.  He added that such a connection would reinforce the right’s political sensibility that the Obama administration is literally socialist.

Jones has become about as mainstream as environmentalists come.  Former Vice President Al Gore said “I love Van Jones” in a New Yorker interview.  Leonardo DiCaprio, writing on Jones in Time magazine’s 100 “Most Influential People”, said “Steadily—by redefining green—Jones is making sure that our planet and our people will not just survive but also thrive in a clean-energy economy.”  Jones was named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes of the Environment 2008”, named one of’s “Sexiest Men Living” and authored the New York Times best-seller The Green Collar Economy in 2008 as well.

The book’s thesis is that “environmentalism and green jobs can lift up the economy and lift up low-income Americans,” Fox News reported.  Green for All, founded by Jones, creates green jobs in low-income areas, and Jones helped Oakland California develop a “green jobs corps” program in 2007.  The green jobs platform is also a feature of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights which he co-founded in 1996.  After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Jones co-founded Color of Change, an advocacy group focusing on black issues.

Thursday, Jones said “My work at the Council on Environmental Quality is entirely focused on one goal; building clean energy incentives, which create 21st century jobs that improve energy efficiency and use renewable resources.”  Previously, Jones’ “history has drifted between mainstream activism surrounding issues of race, poverty and the environment, and activity he has described as “revolutionary”, Fox News reported.

Jones was born in Tennessee and graduated from Yale Law School in 1993.  “But his life took a turn after he was swept up in arrests during a rally following the Rodney King verdict,” Fox News reported.  Though Jones claimed he was monitoring police activity at the time, he said people he met in jail changed his thinking.

“I met all these young radical people of color—I mean really radical, communists and anarchists.  And it was like, This is what I need to be a part of,” a 2005 East Bay Express interview reported.  The following 10 years in San Francisco involved working with many of those he met in jail, Jones said in the interview.  Months after the King verdict, Jones said “I am a communist.”

Jones became involved with Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM), self-described as a group committed to Marxist and Leninist ideas.  He began pressuring San Francisco police, “monitoring and drawing attention to allegations of police brutality,” Fox News reported.  He was quoted accusing the police department of “killing black people.”  He criticized the federal government during the Bush administration.  With associated groups, Jones attacked “US imperialism” after 9/11 and labeled the assumption that an Arab group was responsible a “rush to judgment”.

“You can’t nominate all of these czars…and then say, well, you know, I’m not responsible for all these people,” conservative commentator Anne Coulter said.  “People will start to blame Obama.”  The White House had been very confident in the “green jobs visionary”.

11.  Secretary of State Clinton sued over tar sands pipeline permit—Environment News Service 9/3/09

Four Native American and environmental groups have challenged the Alberta Clipper Pipeline, a tar sands oil pipeline from northern Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin where the oil would be refined.  The US State Department approved the Enbridge Energy pipeline in August, which would bring 450,000 barrels of oil a day into the US.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Deputy Secretary James Steinberg and the US Army Corps of Engineers were named in the lawsuit, claiming the permit was unconstitutional and seeking a block on environmental and Native rights grounds.

“This project will lock our nation into a dirty energy infrastructure for decades to come,” Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope said.  Sierra Club is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.  “Instead of increasing our reliance on oil and piping in pollution, the State Department should support clean, American energy and the jobs that come with it.”

The pipeline would enter the US at Neche, North Dakota, running 384 miles through the Chippewa National Forest and Minnesota’s Leech Lake tribal lands before arriving in Superior.  Plaintiffs argue over 200 water bodies will be impacted by construction, and over 1,200 acres of upland forest, 650 acres of open lands and 1,300 acres of wetlands would be destroyed as well.

Nonprofit law firm Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of The Indigenous Environmental Network, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, National Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club in the US District Court for Northern California.  A Network spokesman said the Leech Lake band of Chippewa had not given its approval in a tribal referendum.  “The voices and rights of the Leech Lake Band members are not being listened to by the Obama Administration,” the spokesman said.

Environmental groups argue there are serious environmental, climate and health impacts associated with tar sands oil.  “The Alberta Clipper will mean more air, water and global warming pollution, particularly in communities near refineries that process tar sands oil,” an Earthjustice attorney said.  She argues “The state department fails to show how building a pipeline to import the dirtiest oil on Earth is in our national interest.”

“Global warming pollution from tar sands production is three times that of conventional crude oil and tar sands oil contains 11 times more sulfur and nickel, six times more nitrogen and five times more lead than conventional oil, environmental groups say.  “Tar sands development in Alberta is creating an environmental catastrophe, with toxic tailings ponds so large they can be seen from space, and plans to strip away forests and peat lands the size of Florida,” complainants add.

Enbridge plans 678 miles of pipeline from Manhattan, Illinois to Clearbrook, Minnesota for carrying diluent, a blending agent that will help make heavy tar sands transportable in the pipeline.  An additional 313 miles of new pipeline would replace existing pipelines that would be diverted.  In all, 1,375 miles of new pipeline would have to be built for the tar sands project.

A spokesman for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy asked, “What happens when this dirty oil leaks and spills from the pipeline?  How much more global warming pollution will be emitted?  How much more water will be polluted?  How many more birds will die?  No one knows, because neither the state nor federal agencies responsible for protecting us have done their jobs.”

The groups argue that a single Environmental Impact Statement should address the entire pipeline network.  A fallback strategy for the groups, should the courts find the State Department did not err, is to challenge the adequacy of the environmental review for the rest of the project.  The review did not assess impacts for the diluent pipeline at all.  Preliminary and permanent injunctions against the diluent pipeline have been requested until a sufficient environmental review has been undertaken as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The State Department’s authority in issuing the Presidential permit for the project also has been challenged, arguing the act was unconstitutional since Congress has not delegated that authority to the Executive Branch.  “This pollution pipeline will increase our dependency on foreign fuels and accelerate the development of one of the dirtiest, most destructive fuels on the planet,” a National Wildlife Federation director said.  “We should be investing in clean energy technologies that will help solve the climate crisis.”


12.  Dyer:  Population, famine and fate in Ethiopia—Gwynne Dyer, SLT 9/3/09

13.  Tea party in Aisle 5 at Whole Foods—Meghan Daum, The Los Angeles Times, SLT 9/5/09

Keep in Mind

14. Swine flu on the automated pig farm—Andrew Leonard, 9/4/09

15.  Idaho’s wolf hunt on for now—AP, SLT 9/4/09

16.  Montana hunters buy nearly 2,600 wolf hunting licenses—AP, SLT 9/4/09

17.  Saving ‘trash fish’ key for lake—Tom Wharton, SLT 9/4/09

18.  EnergySolutions:  We’re in talks with state on nuke issue—Brock Vergakis, AP, SLT 9/4/09

19.  Time for a nuke deal?—Robert Gehrke, Judy Fahys, SLT 9/4/09

20.  2 citizens hearings set on water deal—Patty Henetz, SLT 9/4/09

21.  Patent lawsuits could lead to ban on Prius imports—Bloomberg News, SLT 9/3/09

22.  Idaho hunter bad-mouthed after wolf kill—AP, SLT 9/3/09

23.  Herbert-Hatch report hammers climate bill—Judy Fahys, SLT 9/3/09

24.  Can dirt really save us from global warming?—Christopher Joyce, NPR 9/3/09

25.  In Britain, a census goes deep into the woods—Vicki Barker, NPR 9/3/09

26.  Lead-tainted toys linger on shelves despite law—Oanh Ha, NPR 9/5/09


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