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Environment

Keeping filthy fossil fuels on the run

by Dan Burns on April 14, 2016 · 0 comments

solar2A few pleasing items. This first one is a bit wonky, but it does have considerable real-world importance.
 

In a stunning trend with broad implications, the U.S. economy has grown significantly since 2007, while electricity consumption has been flat, and total energy demand actually dropped…
 
Equally remarkable, this “decoupling” between energy consumption and GDP growth extends to the power sector: “Since 2007, electricity demand has been flat, compared to a compounded annual growth rate of 2.4% from 1990 to 2000.” As I discussed in my recent renewables series, this decoupling is an unprecedented achievement in modern U.S. history. It may seem especially remarkable for an economy underpinned by soaring usage of the internet and electronic equipment — but as I wrote in a 1999 report, a true Internet-based economy was always likely to be a more efficient economy.
(Think Progress)

“How Green Energy is already taking over the World”

 
– “Existing state laws collectively require a 50 percent increase in US renewable electricity

 
And a mega-coal company, Peabody Energy, just declared bankruptcy. If you do click, read the whole article, not just the happy face industry flacks try to put on this.
 

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desertAt this point, they’re talking investigations. Prosecutions will hopefully follow. Then, convictions, mega-fines, and maybe even terms of imprisonment. But all of that will likely take a while.
 

“ClimateTruth.org applauds the 17 state attorneys general who sent a clear message to ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies today: climate fraud will no longer be tolerated. For decades, ExxonMobil and its industry peers have spent billions intentionally misleading investors and general public about the dangers of climate change, resulting in an American public where only 64% accept climate science compared to over 97% of actual climate scientists. This fraud, perpetuated by the fossil fuel industry, has resulted in dangers like rising sea levels, superstorms, and droughts, all threatening the fabric of our global economy, security, and society,” said Emily Southard, Campaign Director of ClimateTruth.org.
(Climate Truth)

As one of the country’s best state AG’s, Lori Swanson’s record includes going after the likes of Globe University, Accretive Health, and the National Arbitration Forum. One could suggest that she doesn’t get enough press for that, but maybe that’s how she wants it.
 

Of course I too have seen her name repeatedly floated as a potential DFL gubernatorial candidate in 2018. I have no idea where she might personally be on that, right now.
 

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Stuff about Minnesota mines and pipelines

by Dan Burns on March 25, 2016 · 0 comments

Tar Sands by Garth Lenz_0The Minnesota legislature passed bills yesterday to extend unemployment benefits for Iron Range miners, and cut unemployment insurance premiums for many businesses. House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) came clean.
 

But Daudt criticized Senate Democrats for refusing to include a statement of support for the mining industry, which was included in the earlier House version of the legislation.
 
“That was what was holding this whole thing up,” he said. “Folks on the Iron Range ought to pay attention to the fact that that was the hang up here.”
 
(Senate Majority Leader Tom) Bakk (DFL-Cook) said there hasn’t been a clear explanation of what ramifications the mining statement would have and whether it would expose the state to legal risk if new mining ventures aren’t approved by regulators.
(MPR)

Pro-mining forces, in and out of political office, have been trying to use crude, petty strong-arm tactics for quite some time. They won’t stop, especially with Governor Mark Dayton having voiced opposition to the proposed Twin Metals project.
 
This one is less mitigated good news.
 

In a defeat for pipeline builder Enbridge Energy, Minnesota utility regulators on Thursday declined to speed up the procedure for reviewing two proposed crude oil pipelines across the state.
 
Enbridge, the Calgary-based company proposing to build the two lines, had complained that the state’s process would unreasonably delay the projects, which would carry oil from North Dakota and Canadian oil fields.
 
“This is not a minor event in Minnesota. This is significant,” said Minnesota Public Utilities Commissioner John Tuma, who opposed changing the timetable. “We are going to be moving a lot of oil through the state — very dangerous. We want to get it right.”
(Star Tribune)

North Dakota oil production continues to decline. Canada is pumping more, for bad reasons.
 

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bwcaToo much of the article is a platform for right-wing minimizing and justifying. But the second part of this blockquote has the bottom line.
 

But in one of several similar actions taken at the Legislature this session, House Republicans have deleted the proposal in a stand against additional acquisition of public land.
 
While the sentiment isn’t new, some conservation group leaders and DNR officials say the ideology is stronger than ever and threatening to undo millions of dollars in outdoors-friendly public land deals vetted and embraced last year by the LCCMR and the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council…
 
LCCMR director Susan Thornton said the discussion isn’t new, but she’s hearing it “a little more often.” She also said she can’t remember a year when proposed public land purchases endorsed by LCCMR were cut at the Legislature to the extreme they were this year in McNamara’s committee. The deleted land deals had a combined price tag of $6.06 million, or 72 percent of total LCCMR cuts made by the committee.
(Star Tribune)

The primary culprit appears to be Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings), chair of the relevant House committee, who has something of a history with issues like this.
 
Many Minnesota conservatives have simply never processed, and never will process, in their puny little right-wing pea-brains, that the citizenry would vote to raise its own taxes for the sake of the natural environment and (good God!) the arts. Ergo, the above.
 

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greatlakesI got an interesting email, from the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, and it piqued me somewhat. (The email’s contents are summarized here.) The city of Waukesha, Wisconsin, wants to divert water from the Great Lakes (specifically, in this case, Lake Michigan) for its own use, and requires a lot of permissions because of the Great Lakes Compact. The matter is well-summed up, with lots of links, here. The articles from which I blockquoted the following add a larger context.
 

At long last the precedent-setting bid by Waukesha, Wisconsin, to draw drinking water from Lake Michigan is formally in line for approval by all – or rejection by at least one – of the governors whose eight states make up the Great Lakes Compact, including Minnesota’s Mark Dayton.
 
This is a very big deal and the outcome couldn’t be more in doubt, according to Peter Annin, who you could fairly say wrote the book on conflicts over our continent’s most precious freshwater resource: “The Great Lakes Water Wars,” published in 2006…
 
But as the governors consider Waukesha’s application, Annin said, they’ll also be thinking a lot about a question that overshadows all the others: If we say yes to Waukesha, then what kind of invitation are we extending to the next community in line, and the next one after that?
 
Especially as conflicts over natural resources move us, in his view, “from the century of oil to the century of water”?
(MinnPost)

(Part 2 from MinnPost here.)
 

Readers in Minnesota have presumably at least heard of grand plans for things like piping water through a gigantic pipeline from Lake Superior to places like Southern California. I looked around, a little, and it seems that none of that has got much political or economic traction, yet. (More here.) But it’s out there.
 

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The popularity among Trump/Drumpf supporters for his wall is nothing more than naked anti-immigrant bigotry and the result of fact-free, fact-averse fear mongering.

 

No one has exposed the Drumpf wall for the hoax it is as well as John Oliver, below, in delving into the details. Waffles anyone?

 

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In my experience, the right fears socialism without properly knowing what it is, and without correctly identifying who or where socialism works well. That would include nations like Denmark, which is a hybrid capitalist/socialist state.

 
I attended the Republican caucuses held March 1st; the leadership warned about the DIRE possibility of  BECOMING DENMARK.  No one would elaborate on what part of resembling Denmark was so fearful, it was an accepted wisdom without any reference to reality.
What reality? THIS reality.

 

The report found that inequality was strongly associated with unhappiness —
a stark finding for rich countries like the United States, where rising
disparities in income, wealth, health and well-being have fueled
political discontent.

 

Denmark is a very successful nation, a very small nation relative to the United States – surely no one is concerned about physical national shrinkage? Trump and Rubio have demonstrated the right has a size phobia…

 
Our differences with Denmark underline the political issues and pressures driving the 2016 election cycle.

 

It is also a nation that is widely regarded, including by its own citizens as less corrupt, as being economically more successful as measured by GDP – it is strongly business friendly.  It is more successful in terms of educational outcome, of health care outcomes (including cost management), in terms of life expectancy, but also in terms of pro-family policies and infrastructure safety, and energy policy.  The average citizen is far more affluent and has far more economic and social mobility than the citizens of the US. The Danes also demonstrate more sincere family values in their national policies regarding supporting family life and coherence.

 
Corruption is, ultimately, the cause of wealth and income inequality, and responsible for it continuing.

 

Critics can hardly call the Danes godless heathens; the state religion is evangelical Lutheranism.  Rather I would prefer to see the US retain the freedom of religion guaranteed by no state religion being established.  But the nation has remarkable religious tolerance, arguably more than that shown by the conservative evangelicals who are Islamophobic.

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bwcaThis is a different deal than PolyMet. Twin Metals Minnesota is planning a potentially horrific environmental disaster right about where the South Kawishiwi River runs into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. That project is at least a couple of years behind PolyMet, is my understanding. A preliminary Environmental Impact Statement, which would be Big Step #1, has not yet been submitted.
 

Monday afternoon, Governor Dayton released a letter sent to the COO of Twin Metals Minnesota informing him of his “strong opposition” to any mining in close proximity to the Boundary Waters Wilderness. Governor Dayton’s position is that the BWCAW is a “crown jewel in Minnesota and a national treasure” that needs to be protected from the inherent risks of sulfide mining pollution. His letter will go down as one of the strongest statements of conservation leadership by a Governor in Minnesota history.
 
The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness is deeply appreciative of the leadership of Governor Dayton. His statement about the need to protect the Boundary Waters from the threat posed by mining proposals next to the wilderness was sorely needed.
(Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness)

If Twin Metals doesn’t just pack it in, by the time its approval process gets really serious, Mark Dayton quite possibly will no longer be governor. His successor could be someone like Tina Smith or Lori Swanson. Or, it could be someone like Kurt Daudt. You get the picture.
 

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stoppolymetContrary to what may have been implied by some corporate media headlines this morning, the state’s decision to call the final EIS “adequate” is a very little deal. It was fully anticipated and pretty much rote, even though by any reasonable standard the thing is far from adequate. Now things get really interesting, because PolyMet/Glencore has to, among other things:
 
– Get permits in the face of huge remaining questions (as well as new ones that one senses are likely to appear);
 
– Deal with expert, vigorous, entirely justified legal challenges;
 
– Decide to sink megabucks into a new operation, in the face of a worldwide glut of industrial metals that is projected to continue indefinitely;
 
– All in the face of growing public opposition (despite PolyMet’s continued infestation of televised state high school sports tournaments with its noxious drivel).
 
Obviously, I’m not going to wish PolyMet’s, and Glencore’s, poobahs good luck with all of that. Quite the contrary.
 

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Tar Sands by Garth Lenz_0Good news.
 

Two proposed oil pipelines through northern Minnesota have been delayed by two years.
 
Enbridge Energy has proposed building the Sandpiper line from North Dakota through northern Minnesota to its facility in Superior, Wis. The Canadian company also wants to replace an aging line from the Alberta oil sands region.
 
Last month the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission said the company can’t proceed with permitting until an environmental analysis is completed. Enbridge has challenged that order.
(MPR)

Here’s background. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton unfortunately supports the expansion. He has, however, shown that as a thinking person he can revise his views in the face of righteous public opinion. As with medical marijuana, for example.
 

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