Telling it like it is

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I’m catching up on some of my feed reading (sorry John, open government is trumping science these days) and started checking the backlog of posts at Waterblogged. That led me to this article on China’s Three Gorges Damn. The plain language is striking:

The Three Gorges Dam, then, lies at the uncomfortable center of China’s energy conundrum: The nation’s roaring economy is addicted to dirty, coal-fired power plants that pollute the air and belch greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

I don’t know when the shift occurred, or why I didn’t notice, but it sure was nice to read a newspaper article that plainly said coal-based power production is a cause of global warming.

Cut off catalogs

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Do you shop online? More than likely, if you’re even reading this, you’re somebody who has made purchases on the Internet, and you’ll probaby continue doing so. And, if you’ve ever shopped at all, I’m sure you’re in the same situation I’m in: you check your mail every day, only to find the box stuffed with catalogs from department stores, local merchants and specialty shops (I’m looking at you Victoria’s Secret).

Well, my sister’s outfit has teamed up with the National Resources Defense Council to start Catalog Choice. I’ll let Consumerist tell you more about it:

Just sign up, fill in your address, and the customer number printed on the catalogs’ address label. The site’s staff then take care of contacting the catalog senders and getting off their mailing lists. Pretty much the easiest, fastest, and cheapest way to get rid of unwanted catalogs that we’ve ever heard of.

Registration at the site is free,  and the process couldn’t be simpler. So, if you’re tired of getting unwanted catalogs (or just want to help out the environment a little bit) then go check it out.

Sound familiar?

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From the Department of Been There Done That:

In recent years, Coast Guard staff and institutional emphasis have been shifted more toward port and coastal protection duties than marine safety and environmental response. Meanwhile, important equipment used in spill response has aged, insiders say, and training drills — routine in the years after the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska — are fewer and farther between.

Last March, the Coast Guard disbanded its department that helped set up those oil-spill response exercises and reassigned more than a dozen people to homeland security duties.

Jim Goldstein has some photos from around the Bay Area. For those of you not in the know (I haven’t seen much about the spill in the media myself), a tanker spilled 58,000 gallons (!) of heavy bunker fuel oil last Wednesday, after running into a Bay Bridge pylon ((Following this Chronicle link, check the sidebar for their thorough coverage of the spill)):

Oil began leaking into the water after the Cosco Busan, an 810-foot container ship that weighs 65,131 tons, crashed into a tower of the Bay Bridge’s western span in heavy fog at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Within an hour, six emergency vessels from the Coast Guard and Marine Spill Response Corp. were on the scene, officials said. Yet even by 4 p.m. Wednesday, officials apparently believed only 140 gallons of oil had leaked into the water.

Of course, there’s that bit about the Coast Guard response from the LA Times:

In reshaping its focus after 9/11, critics say, the Coast Guard has let its relationships with port users, shippers and fishermen deteriorate. That is because marine safety and environmental response strategies require close cooperation. Anti-terrorism tactics, however, tend to be secretive and rigid.

“It’s changed big-time, in the sense everything now is focused on the war on terror,” said Zeke Grader, president of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Assns. A decade ago, Bay Area fishermen were counted on by the Coast Guard to help mop up oil spills. Dozens of fishing boats and anglers were certified to deal with spills, Grader said. “It was like a volunteer fire department kind of thing.”

But officials let the program lapse, he said. And when the fishermen approached the Coast Guard to help, they were told not to bother, said Larry Collins, president of the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Assn.

Disaster response under the Bush Administration, folks.

Paper millionaires

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Two weeks ago, in a post on biofuels, I mentioned the effects that increased corn production for ethanol is having on other crops, particularly wheat. Kevin Drum offers his own (much more concise) analysis of the situation:

Let’s see: (a) environmentally speaking, corn ethanol is a pretty dodgy idea, (b) we’re subsidizing it anyway to the tune of $3 billion per year, (c) farmers, as you’d expect, are responding to the subsidies by reducing the amount of farmland used for food production, (d) this is driving up the price of staple food worldwide, and (e) we’re going to toss another $10 billion in ag welfare to already-rich corn farmers on top of all that.

A commentor at Kevin’s place also hits the nail on the head:

It doesn’t help that any politician who wants to be president has to either vote for this policy or lose the Iowa Caucus.

Welcome to US agriculture policy.

Prospect Special Report: The Amazon

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My mail is still kinda funky (not forwarding correctly) so I’m a bit late in catching this, but The American Prospect has a great special report this month on the Amazon. A slew of articles, sidebars and graphs examine the commercial interests vying for access to the forest, the effect on the Amazon basin, and the struggle to save the ecosystem there:

There’s a brash, risky new Amazonia out there. Pioneer entrepreneurs are making fortunes from activities long considered not feasible in this vast and challenging place, gouging ever deeper into the rainforest in pursuit of wealth. The deeper they slash into the forest and burn it, the more greenhouse gas is released into the atmosphere. The destruction of the Amazonian forest has become a leading cause of global warming, with profound climate implications and dangers within the region and far beyond it. Why all this matters so much, and what there is to be done about it, is the subject of this report.

Head on over and take a look.