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Obama's "five worst nominees"

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 20:49:47 PM CST

Over at the Mother Jones blog, Kate Sheppard, David Corn and Daniel Schulman compiled a list of "Obama's Five Worst Nominees." Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner doesn't make the cut, which surprised me until I read the short bios of appointees who are likely to put corporate interests ahead of the public interest. In alphabetical order:

William Lynn, for whom the president made an exception to his policy on lobbyists in government. Lynn was the chief lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon before becoming deputy secretary of defense in the Obama administration.

William Magwood, a "cheerleader for nuclear power" who has "worked for reactor maker Westinghouse and has run two firms that advise companies on nuclear projects." Obama nominated him for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Scott O'Malia, who was apparently suggested by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell. O'Malia "was a lobbyist for Mirant, an Enron-like energy-trading firm" and lobbied for weakening the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, to which Obama appointed him.

Joseph Pizarchik, who helped form policies in Pennsylvania to allow disposal of toxic coal ash in unlined pits. Obama named him director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

Islam Siddiqui, whom Obama appointed to be the chief agricultural negotiator for the U.S. trade representative. Jill Richardson has been on this case at La Vida Locavore; see here and here on why Siddiqui is the wrong person for this job.

I wouldn't suggest that this rogue's gallery is representative of Obama appointees, but it's depressing to see any of them in this administration.

In the good news column, Obama has decided to renominate Dawn Johnsen to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, along with five other nominees who didn't receive a confirmation vote in the Senate last year.

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Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 2)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 14:56:38 PM CST

Following up on the diary I posted this morning, this post compiles links to Bleeding Heartland's coverage of national politics from July through December 2009. Health care reform was again the number one topic. I wish there had been a happy ending.
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Nuclear power not the answer to global warming

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 16, 2009 at 14:41:57 PM CST

Environment Iowa posted an important statement here today, and I encourage you to click over and read the whole thing. I want to highlight a few passages:

   *       To avoid the most catastrophic impacts of global warming, the U.S. needs to cut power plant emissions roughly in half over the next 10 years.
   *       Nuclear power is too slow to contribute to this effort. No new reactors are now under construction and building a single reactor could take 10 years or longer, while costing billions of dollars.
   *       Even if the nuclear industry somehow managed to build 100 new nuclear reactors by 2030, nuclear power could reduce total U.S. emissions over the next 20 years by only 12 percent. [...]

In contrast to building new nuclear plants, efficiency and renewable energy can immediately and significantly reduce electricity consumption and carbon emissions. The report found that:

   *       Efficiency programs are already cutting electricity consumption by 1-2 percent annually in leading states, and the wind industry is already building the equivalent of three nuclear reactors per year in wind farms, many of which are in Iowa.
   *       Building 100 new reactors would require an up-front investment on the order of $600 billion dollars - money which could cut at least twice as much carbon pollution by 2030 if invested in clean energy. Taking into account the ongoing costs of running the nuclear plants, clean energy could deliver 5 times more pollution-cutting progress per dollar.
   *       Nuclear power is not necessary to provide carbon-free electricity for the long haul. The need for base-load power is exaggerated and small-scale, local energy solutions can actually enhance the reliability of the electric grid.

Click here to download "Generating Failure: How Building Nuclear Power Plants Would Set America Back in the Race Against Global Warming." Other excerpts from the executive summary:

Nuclear power is expensive and will divert resources from more cost-effective energy strategies.

   * Building 100 new nuclear reactors would require an up-front capital investment on the order of $600 billion (with a possible range of $250 billion to $1 trillion), diverting money away from cleaner and cheaper solutions. Any up-front investment in nuclear power would lock in additional expenditures over time.

   * Over the life of a new reactor, the electricity it produces could cost in the range of 12 to 20 cents per kilowatt-hour, or more. In contrast, a capital investment in energy efficiency actually pays us back several times over with ongoing savings on electricity bills, and an investment in renewable power can deliver electricity for much less cost.

   * Per dollar spent over the lifetime of the technology, energy efficiency and biomass co-firing are five times more effective at preventing carbon dioxide pollution, and combined heat and power (in which a power plant generates both electricity and heat for a building or industrial application) is greater than three times more effective. In 2018, biomass and land-based wind energy will be more than twice as effective, and offshore wind power will be on the order of 30 percent more effective per dollar of investment, even without the benefit of the renewable energy production tax credit. (See Figure ES-2.)

   * By 2018, and possibly sooner, solar photovoltaic power should be comparable to a new nuclear reactor in terms of its per-dollar ability to prevent global warming pollution. Some analyses imply that thin film solar photovoltaic power is already more cost-effective than a new reactor. And solar power is rapidly growing cheaper, while nuclear costs are not likely to decline.

Please send this link to friends who believe we must expand nuclear power in order to meet our electricity needs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has also concluded that "the U.S. does not need to significantly expand its reliance on nuclear power to make dramatic cuts in power plant carbon emissions through 2030-and that doing so would be uneconomical."

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This post should have been an action alert

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 10:33:00 AM CDT

All week I've been trying to decide what to write about the upcoming vote on HR 2454, the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). The U.S. House is scheduled to vote today, so I better not delay any longer.

Some arguments for and against the bill are after the jump.

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Events coming up this weekend and next week

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 11:44:21 AM CST

As always, post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of an event I should add to this post.

Friday, February 13:

As part of the "POWERLINES to the Future" conference of the Midwest Regional Physicians for Social Responsibility, there will be a free film and discussion of "Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives" at 7:30 pm in the International Center, Old Capitol Town Center Mall, downtown Iowa City.

Get full information at:
www.iowa-psr.org/pl/pl_home.html

One Iowa urges supporters to "write a note on Facebook or Myspace with the 25 Reasons you support marriage equality. Then tag 25 of your closest friends on the note and add your 25 reasons as a comment to the One Iowa Facebook or Myspace page." Also, One Iowa is hosting a Happy Hour from 5-7 PM at Azalea Restaurant, 400 Walnut St., Des Moines.

Friends of Iowa Midwives is having a "Red Envelope Party" (where people can write letters to policy-makers advocating for expanding birth options in Iowa) in Davenport from 3 pm to 5 pm at the Harrison Hilltop Theatre. Click here for more information:

http://www.friendsofiowamidwiv...

Saturday, February 14:

Physicians for Social Responsibility is holding a "POWERLINES to the Future" conference at the International Center, Old Capitol Town Center Mall, Iowa City. PSR hopes to encourage Iowans, especially those involved in the health professions, to become more informed and actively engaged in confronting the gravest health challenges of our time:

Conference 9:00 AM -- 4:00 PM
Check-in and breakfast at 8:00 AM

The Saturday program addresses health, environmental, and economic consequences of:
Nuclear weapons
Nuclear power
Coal fired power generation
View full program at:  www.iowa-psr.org/pl/pl_home.html/#program

Intended audience: physicians, allied health professionals, public health officials, general public, and students.

Registration includes breakfast and lunch on Saturday.

Pre-registration by Wednesday February 11, 2009 is required to be ensured food!
Sliding-scale conference registration fee.
Register online or download a printable registration form at:
www.iowa-psr.org/pl/pl_home.html/#registration

Friends of Iowa Midwives is having a "Red Envelope Party" at the Urbandale Public Library from 10 am to 12 pm, and at the Iowa City Public Library from 1 pm to 3 pm. For more information:

http://www.friendsofiowamidwiv...

Monday, February 16:

Big event on climate change co-sponsored by lots of good organizations:

The University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research and a variety of co-sponsoring organizations invite you to a climate change briefing and discussion to highlight the recent report of the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council.

The briefing and discussion will take place on Monday, February 16, 6:00-7:30 pm at the Iowa State Historical Building Auditorium, 600 East Locust in Des Moines.

The meeting will be an opportunity to learn more about climate change science its potential impacts on Iowa, as well as learn about the recent options detailed in the work of the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council report and participate in an informal discussion about climate change and next steps.

Iowa Climate Change Briefing and Discussion
Monday, February 16, 6:00-7:30 pm
Iowa State Historical Building, Auditorium

AGENDA
Welcome - Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie
Richard Leopold, Director, Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Climate Science and Assessment of Climate Change for Iowa- Eugene S. Takle, Director, Climate Change Initiative, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Professor of Agricultural Meteorology, Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University

Brief overview of the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council's Report -  Jerry Schnoor - Co-director, University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research and Chairman, Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council

What are our next steps? Interactive discussion with key legislators, ICCAC members and the audience

Adjourn for light refreshments

Climate Change Briefing and Discussion Co-Sponsors

Iowa State University Climate Science Initiative
UNI Center for Energy and Environmental Education
Iowa State University Extension
Iowa Department of Economic Development
Iowa Office of Energy Independence
Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Iowa Department of Public Health
Iowa Office of Consumer Advocate
Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities
Iowa State Association of Counties
Iowa League of Cities
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
Iowa Environmental Council
Iowa Interfaith Power & Light
Iowa Policy Project
Trees Forever

For more information or questions contact Joe Bolkcom, Outreach and Community Education Director, UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research at joe-bolkcom@uiowa.edu or 319-353-2681.

One Iowa is organizing this event:

February 16, 5:30 PM
"Transgender Medicine 101"
featuring Dr. Christine McGinn
FREE and open to the public
Dinner at 5:30, lecture at 6:00
Des Moines University Student Education Center Auditorium
3200 Grand Avenue, Des Moines
Go to www.oneiow.org for more information

Tuesday, February 17:

It's the registration deadline for the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa's Crossroads lunch on February 20 (see below for more information). Call 515-279-8715 to make a reservation.

The Women Food and Agriculture Network is holding "Women Caring for the Land" meetings on February 17, 18 and 19, for women landowners in Johnson, Jones and Linn Counties. These are free educational programs on conservation programming for women who are farm partners, owner-operators, or inheritors who own farmland. Laura Krouse will hold meetings in each county, followed by spring field days and a follow-up meeting. Please call her at 319-895-6924 to find out where and when the meeting will be held in each county.

Wednesday, February 18:

One Iowa and Lambda Legal are holding a "Let My Parents Marry" forum at 6:30 pm in the Coralville Public Library, Meeting Room A, 1401 5th St., Coralville.

Friends of Iowa Midwives is holding its third Annual Conscious Birth Summit from 3 pm to 8 pm in the Iowa City Public Library, Meeting Room A, Featuring screenings of The Business of Being Born and Orgasmic Birth.

Thursday, February 19:

From the Iowa Environmental Council newsletter:

Growing Sustainable Communities Conference

Join us Thursday, February 19, 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., at the Grand River Center, 500 Bell Street in Dubuque. Cost is $20 per person, which includes a lunch. Limited number of student scholarships available. Our conference theme is "Promoting Historic Preservation as Part of the Climate Solution." Insights will be offered on creating local and regional policies to promote sustainability through historic preservation. Keynote speakers for the event are Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Roya Stanley, director of the Iowa Office for Energy Independence. Deadline for registration is Feb 11 [from desmoinesdem: I know it's late, but if you're interested try calling anyway]. A limited number of student scholarships are available. Online registration and payment, as well as additional information, are available at www.sustainabledubuque.org or by calling 563.589.4110 during business hours. The mission of the conference is to educate the public on the issues that impact the long-term health and sustainability of our region and to create an opportunity for policy decision-makers from the tri-state area to come together to discuss ways in which they can enact the most effective change at the local level.

Also from the IEC bulletin:

Iowa Whitewater Coalition Annual Dinner Meeting
February 19, Des Moines
The IWC 'Reconnecting the Rivers' Annual Dinner Meeting will take place on Thursday, February 19th, with a social hour beginning at 6 pm and dinner at 7 pm. Following the meal special guest Adam Brooks, who has paddled the entire Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, will be sharing stories from his adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail and his plans for paddling 2300 miles of the Yukon River in Alaska starting in June. The meeting will be held at the House of Thai, located at 3017 100th Street in Des Moines. There will be a wonderful selection of dishes served banquet style, beverages and a cash bar for those interested. Tickets may be purchased for $25 per individual or $45 per couple. Proceeds from the event directly benefit the non-profit activities of the IWC and its Reconnecting the Rivers Campaign. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to: http://www.iowawhitewater.org/...

One Iowa and Lambda Legal are holding a "Let My Parents Marry" forum at 6:30 pm in the Des Moines Public Library, Meeting Room 1, 1000 Grand Ave. in Des Moines.

Friday, February 20:

The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa is holding a Crossroads luncheon:

Guest Speaker:    Nate Monson
Project Coordinator, Iowa Safe Schools

Subject:                Safe Schools for All

Sexual orientation and gender identity are two controversial topics in our communities and in our schools. Are our schools safe for LGBT youth? Learn about, discuss, and experience the effects of bias and harassment on students who identify and students who are perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender and learn about laws dealing with the GLBT community.

Date:                    Friday, February 20

o       Time:        11:45 - 1 p.m.

o       Location: Plymouth Congregational Church, Des Moines (42nd Street & Ingersoll Avenue )

o       Cost:         $9.00

Reservations are required for Crossroads.  Please call or email TIA Iowa by Tuesday, February 17.
Office: 515-279-8715

Friends of Iowa Midwives is having a Red Envelope Party from noon to 1 pm at the Marion Public Library.

Saturday, February 21:

From the IEC bulletin:

Hunter Angler Summit

Please join other outdoor enthusiasts on Feb 21, at Johnson County Conservation Education Center at F.W. Kent Park, just west of Tiffin, for a one-day summit to learn about threats to Iowa wetlands, rivers and streams, and help the National and Iowa Wildlife Federation to launch a state campaign to fight back after the rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and administrative fiats that have left over half of Iowa streams and over 70 percent of Iowa's prairie pothole wetlands vulnerable to losing Clean Water Act protections. Whether you are an angler who enjoys casting in your favorite stream or a hunter who counts on mallards and northern pintails, these decisions threaten the places you love. Policy experts and scientists will share the current efforts to eliminate protections in Iowa and the serious impacts they have for Iowa fish and wildlife. We will work together to design a statewide plan for hunters and anglers to stop the rollback of clean water protections for Iowa waters.  Hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts who care about clean water and wildlife should attend. Please RSVP: Email Pam Goddard, goddardp@nwf.org or call at 301-741-6606.

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Bleeding Heartland Year in Review: Iowa politics in 2008

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 31, 2008 at 22:00:00 PM CST

Last year at this time I was scrambling to make as many phone calls and knock on as many doors as I could before the Iowa caucuses on January 3.

This week I had a little more time to reflect on the year that just ended.

After the jump I've linked to Bleeding Heartland highlights in 2008. Most of the links relate to Iowa politics, but some also covered issues or strategy of national importance.

I only linked to a few posts about the presidential race. I'll do a review of Bleeding Heartland's 2008 presidential election coverage later this month.

You can use the search engine on the left side of the screen to look for past Bleeding Heartland diaries about any person or issue.

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Bad news for opponents of new American nuclear power plants

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 21:07:03 PM CDT

If you're worried about the direction of energy policy under a President Barack Obama, as I am, you will not be comforted by the news I just learned from Bleeding Heartland user Renewable Rich. MidAmerican Energy, which is part of Warren Buffett's empire, is buying Constellation Energy, which among other things operates nuclear power plants. One of the articles Renewable Rich linked to notes:

This deal also brings nuclear energy to Berkshire's utility empire for the first time, an area where Buffett has professed great interest. Constellation operates a highly efficient fleet of plants and has plans to build several more. The merger effectively allies Berkshire with French nuclear giant Electricite de France-which owns 10 percent of Constellation-and its nuclear construction partner, French government-backed Areva. The pair has plans to build four advanced reactors in the US, and joining their interests to Buffett's deep pockets could accelerate their development.

Obama has already said he is open to expanding nuclear power in the U.S., and I'm sure Warren Buffett will have his ear.

This is not good news for those of us who share the position of the Union of Concerned Scientists regarding nuclear power.

Before people start posting angry comments, let me assure you that I understand Obama's energy policy as a whole would be much better than McCain's. I still worry about Obama's support for nuclear power and so-called "clean coal." Those stands were the main reason that Friends of the Earth Action endorsed John Edwards last fall and not Obama.

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One more time: we don't need new coal-fired plants

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 11:20:00 AM CDT

This came in from Plains Justice yesterday:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - August 29, 2008      
Contacts:        

Carrie La Seur, Plains Justice (Cedar Rapids), 319-560-4729, claseur AT plainsjustice.org

Chris James, Synapse Energy Economics (Cambridge, MA), 617-861-7484, cjames AT synapse-energy.com

COMMUNITY, FARM AND PUBLIC HEALTH GROUPS FILE EXPERT TESTIMONY THAT BETTER EFFICIENCY PERFORMANCE IS A GENUINE ALTERNATIVE TO COAL

DES MOINES - Today Plains Justice, a Cedar Rapids-based environmental justice law center, filed expert testimony in Interstate Power and Light's energy efficiency planning docket before the Iowa Utilities Board, on behalf of a coalition of Iowa grassroots groups.  The testimony by Synapse Energy Economics concludes that IPL has exaggerated costs and underestimated potential for its efficiency programs.

Expert witness Christopher James, a former air regulator who helped develop EPA's National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency, testifies that "IPL overestimates the costs of energy efficiency, and underestimates the amount of energy efficiency that can be achieved by 2013."  IPL has told the IUB that energy savings of 1.5% annually, the level requested by IUB, would be difficult to achieve.  James concludes that this scenario is "very achievable" and should be pursued.

IPL's energy efficiency planning is the subject of heightened interest because IPL claims that it cannot avoid the need for its proposed 649 MW Marshalltown plant through improved efficiency programming.  According to today's intervenor testimony, IPL's flawed approach to efficiency has led to the conclusion that a new coal plant is needed.  James testifies that IPL could achieve even more than 1.5% annual energy savings by including opportunities IPL has ignored, including combined heat and power at industrial sites like ethanol refineries.

The testimony states that "IPL has ignored some of the benefits of energy efficiency to Iowa's consumers and businesses. These benefits include: deferring the need to construct new or upgrade existing generation, deferring the need to construct new or upgrade existing transmission lines and distribution system, reducing ratepayer bills, reducing emissions of criteria air pollutants (such as those which contribute to acid rain, smog and haze) and greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing public health costs (from reduced number of asthma cases, visits to emergency rooms, lost productivity at work, etc.)." James recommends that IUB require a revised and more ambitious plan from IPL.

Plains Justice argues that IUB must ensure that IPL has optimized efficiency programming before allowing a new coal plant to be built at a cost of up to $2 billion.  "Approving a coal plant before we've completed an aggressive efficiency planning process is putting the cart before the horse, at ratepayer expense," says Plains Justice President and Founder Carrie La Seur.

Intervenors represented by Plains Justice in this docket are Community Energy Solutions, Iowa Farmers Union and Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility.  The intervenors are advocates for clean, community-based energy solutions that minimize the health and environmental impacts of energy production and support local and rural economies.  This intervention is one of a series brought by Plains Justice to promote better energy policy for Iowa on behalf of grassroots Iowa organizations.

The only low point of Barack Obama's acceptance speech on Thursday was this:

As president, as president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.

There is no such thing as "clean coal." Every new coal-fired power plant is a 50-year investment in the wrong direction. It is unfortunate that our Democratic leaders lack the political courage to embrace an energy policy committed to meeting our needs without expanding our use of coal and nuclear power.

Al Gore laid out how this can be done in a major speech last month. Click the link to find an annotated version of the full transcript.

We can do much more with conservation and energy efficiency measures than the major utility companies acknowledge.

Thanks to Plains Justice and the other non-profit groups that are continuing to push the Iowa Utilities Board in the right direction.

If only the IUB had done the right thing back in April, these worthy non-profits could be spending their staff time and resources on other environmental and health problems facing Iowans.

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Repeat after me: we don't need new coal or nuclear plants

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 29, 2008 at 13:09:30 PM CDT

This article by Joseph Romm for Salon explains "Why we never need to build another polluting power plant."

That's right, conservation and efficiency measures can help us save money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet our energy needs without building any new coal-fired power plants or nuclear reactors.

The whole article is worth reading, but here's a small excerpt:

America is the Saudi Arabia of energy waste. A 2007 report from the international consulting firm McKinsey and Co. found that improving energy efficiency in buildings, appliances and factories could offset almost all of the projected demand for electricity in 2030 and largely negate the need for new coal-fired power plants. McKinsey estimates that one-third of the U.S. greenhouse gas reductions by 2030 could come from electricity efficiency and be achieved at negative marginal costs. In short, the cost of the efficient equipment would quickly pay for itself in energy savings.

While a few states have energy-efficiency strategies, none matches what California has done. In the past three decades, electricity consumption per capita grew 60 percent in the rest of the nation, while it stayed flat in high-tech, fast-growing California. If all Americans had the same per capita electricity demand as Californians currently do, we would cut electricity consumption 40 percent. If the entire nation had California's much cleaner electric grid, we would cut total U.S. global-warming pollution by more than a quarter without raising American electric bills. And if all of America adopted the same energy-efficiency policies that California is now putting in place, the country would never have to build another polluting power plant.

How did California do it? In part, a smart California Energy Commission has promoted strong building standards and the aggressive deployment of energy-efficient technologies and strategies -- and has done so with support of both Democratic and Republican leadership over three decades.

There's no good reason why the Iowa legislature and Governor Chet Culver could not cooperate to implement some of the successful regulations from California. Then we could convince the members of the Iowa Utilities Board that conservation would go a long way toward meeting our baseload needs.

Too many people believe in the false choice of "clean coal" or nuclear power.  

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Don't overlook conservation as a way to meet electricity needs

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 17:00:54 PM CDT

The Des Moines Register published a long interview with the three members of the Iowa Utilities Board on Monday.

As you may recall, Democrats John Norris and Krista Tanner recently voted to approve an application to build a new coal-fired power plan near Marshalltown. Republican Darrell Hanson opposed the coal plant.

The whole piece is worth your time, but this was the key passage for me:

Q: For base-load power, it seems as if there aren't many other options for Iowa than coal right now. Longer term, what's on the horizon for base-load power?

Tanner: That is why I ultimately ended up voting for [the plant]. Even if all these things end up happening, the most aggressive standards we're talking about are 30 by 30 [30 percent of electricity generated by renewable sources by 2030], and I'm really concerned about what does that other 70 percent look like. In my opinion, it's coal or nuclear. [Nuclear is] not without its problems, because it is expensive. I am on the [Iowa] Climate Change Advisory Council, and we put that as an option to study. There's a lot of resistance to it in the public, more so than coal, even though it's a lower carbon-generating source.

They are pursuing ways to store the carbon to make coal more viable. I don't think that will happen in the next five to 10 years. I saw this plant as almost a bridge technology, because it is more efficient. My thought is that if we're going to have coal, it better be the most efficient plant we can have and have a potential for biomass. While it may be an incremental step in carbon reduction, it's a step that we can take today.

Norris: At least for the foreseeable future, it's going to be nuclear or coal. My preference certainly is to reduce greenhouse gases. For the long term, that's nuclear, but it's extremely expensive to build right now and an extremely lengthy process to build.

Q: Is there anything the state can do to encourage construction of nuclear plants or is that solely a federal responsibility?

Norris: We're certainly open to a nuclear application, but still don't expect it tomorrow. I know Mid-American looked closely at it, but decided costs, the time and the building issues are just prohibitive. Mid-American is a very progressive company in looking at new alternatives. It makes me a little concerned about how the country as a whole is going to solve our base-load problems. Nuclear certainly will help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Some people have suggested to me that John Norris would prefer for the coal plant not to be built, but his comments to the Des Moines Register do not support that speculation. It sounds as if he is resigned to expanding our use of coal because the utilities are not currently pursuing the alternative he prefers, nuclear power.

I believe that renewable energy technologies like wind and solar power can meet more of our electricity needs than IUB members expect.

But we also need to aggressively pursue conservation through government regulations, incentives and public-education campaigns. Conservation measures can dramatically reduce the demand for electricity, and do it quickly.

Residents of Juneau, Alaska cut their electricity use by about 30 percent in a week this spring. Click the link to read about how Brazilians reduced their use of electricity by 20 percent in two months in 2001.

The IUB is not in charge of our state's energy policy, but maybe its members would not be inclined to approve new coal-fired power plants if they believed that future demand for electricity would be lower than currently projected.

State legislators and officials should take more steps to promote energy efficiency and conservation, as well as increasing our use of wind and solar power.

Here are some easy ways for individuals to reduce their own use of electricity. Simple things like unplugging appliances you are not using can save a lot.

P.S.--I cannot agree with Norris's implication that expanding nuclear power would be the best way to meet demand for electricity while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Here is a link to a 74-page report from the Union of Concerned Scientists on nuclear power. But if you're too busy to read it, here is the key finding in less than 30 words:

The life cycle of nuclear power results in relatively little global warming pollution, but building a new fleet of plants could increase threats to public safety and national security.

A position paper on nuclear power and global warming notes that

Prudence dictates that we develop as many options to reduce global warming emissions as possible, and begin by deploying those that achieve the largest reductions most quickly and with the lowest costs and risk. Nuclear power today does not meet these criteria.

Friends of the Earth makes even stronger arguments against expanding nuclear power as a response to global warming:

It Would Set Back the Fight Against Global Warming: Experts suggest that we must triple the number of nuclear reactors in the U.S. in order to make a dent in global warming.  With a price tag of $5 billion per reactor and a historic construction timeline around 10 years, we're not likely to see the 200-300 needed new reactors anytime soon.  (We currently have just over 100 reactors and many of those would have to be replaced as they reach retirement age.)  Alternatives, like wind, solar and conservation programs can produce results more quickly and affordably.

That was a long post-script, but we need to get out of the mindset that nuclear power is a solution to global warming, especially since both John McCain and Barack Obama are open to expanding nuclear power in this country.

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McCain shameful behavior roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 24, 2008 at 21:34:25 PM CDT

It's hard to keep up with all the reasons to oppose John McCain. Last night I wrote about his opposition to a bill that would make it easier for victims of job discrimination to seek legal redress.

If you care about that issue, you can sign the petition on "Equal Pay for Equal Work" at Momsrising.org.

Meanwhile, I learned from this diary by TomP that Friends of the Earth Action is running an ad against McCain on CNN. The ad highlights McCain's support for the nuclear power industry:

TomP's diary also includes this great quote from Friends of the Earth Action president Dr. Brent Blackwalder:

You know how self righteous John McCain can be when he talks about corporate pork and earmarks, but do you know why he opposes the Lieberman-Warner global warming bill?  He plans to vote against it not because it could lavish $1 trillion on the profitable oil, gas and coal industries, but because he wants to add hundreds of billions of dollars more in earmarks for the nuclear industry!

On a related note, I got an e-mail today from the Sierra Club slamming McCain's proposal to suspend the federal gas tax between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The Sierra Club notes that the real effect of that policy would be to

[r]aise oil company profits by another 18 cents per gallon -- by eliminating the federal gas tax without guaranteeing that Big Oil won't just keep prices high and take the difference to grow their record profits even more.

The Sierra Club also has an online petition you can sign, which sends this message to McCain:

The best way to deal with high gas prices is to cut, not expand, giveaways to Big Oil. Please vote to end taxpayer-funded subsidies and tax breaks for Big Oil and use that money to invest in clean, renewable energy.

Earlier this week, I got the latest newsletter from Smart Growth America, which also blasted McCain's proposal to declare a summer holiday from the federal gas tax:

An artificial and temporary reduction of gas prices will simply guarantee that absolutely no money goes towards having suitable roads and bridges for those filled-up cars to drive on - not to mention alternatives to congestion, like commuter rail and transit. Instead, we can send the full price of gasoline directly into the pockets of oil companies. (An estimated $10 billion in transportation revenue would be lost, or enough to fully fund Amtrak rail service for 6 years or so.) Meanwhile, we fall farther behind in maintaining our infrastructure: Rust doesn't take the summer off.

But that's not all. To coincide with McCain's photo-op in New Orleans' Ninth Ward today, Moveon.org Political Action launched its own online petition calling on McCain to reject the endorsement of right-wing pastor John Hagee. I knew about Hagee's anti-Catholic bigotry, but I wasn't aware that Hagee once said, "Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans."

Surely there couldn't be any more shameful news about McCain to emerge within this 24-hour period, right? Wrong. I learned from Natasha Chart's post at MyDD today that during a recent visit to Alabama, McCain's campaign used free prison labor to get out of paying to set up for a private fundraiser.

I guess a campaign that is way behind its Democratic rivals in fundraising has to save money wherever it can.

But it would be more honest for McCain to curtail all campaign spending between now and the Republican National Convention this summer, because he is not complying with limits imposed by his decision to take public financing last year.

If I've missed any recent disgraceful behavior coming from the McCain camp, please let me know in the comments section.

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