Surprise Domenici vote on stimulus? Not so fast…

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While reading this The Hill article on the Senate’s efforts to pass a broader economic stimulus package, I was surprised to see Sen. Pete Domenici listed as one of the Republicans voting for cloture. Then, I remembered that energy efficiency tax credits were part of the package (more here at TAPPED) . Domenici, if you recall, led the charge against the same tax breaks last year, because they would have been offset by taking away similar credits from the oil and gas industry.

Surely there’s no connection.

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.

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.

Reporter’s Notebook: Fire Season

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I’ll have more on this in today’s edition of the Daily Press, but wanted to include two maps I found while doing research for a story yesterday (click for larger versions):

Southwest Fire Weather Outlook

Southwest Fire Behavior Outlook

Both maps come to us from the Southwest Coordination Center. You can find updated (looks like daily) versions of these maps at the Center’s Predictive Outlook page.

I wanted to highlight these maps, as they give a good overall sense of what’s happening in the region. Dry lightning is a huge concern right now for fire officials (right up there with fireworks) and the first map does a great job of showing how thunderstorms are behaving.

Checking the second map, you can see Silver City is just on the cusp of “Active” fire behavior, with the western third of Grant County firmly in the yellow. That second map shows what fire might do in a particular region. Wind conditions, temperature, fuel levels and other criteria determine a fire’s course and behavior, and that changes on a daily basis. Nonetheless, the overall picture is an important one to study.

Like I said, more in the Daily Press this evening.