S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Big Tracks in the Carbon World

More in step? For the first time in years U.S. and European efforts towards combatting energy dependence and global warming may be getting more in step. For far too long the Bush administration denied the existence of the phenomenon and insisted using the spin term "climate change." The new Democratic congress is calling it what it is, and will likely do something about trying to make the U.S. carbon footprint in the world a bit smaller.
Press Club headliners Reid and Pelosi step forward - In a world growing smaller and smaller and more interconnected, this headline is very welcome. "Democrats Vow to Combat Global Warming" (1/19/07); William Branigan wrote an article at the Washington Post, from which I quote:
Democratic leaders in Congress vowed today to push forward with legislative efforts to combat global warming and promote energy independence, issues that they said have not been adequately addressed by President Bush because his administration has been "overwhelmed" by the war in Iraq.
. . . "It is important to our children's health and their global competitiveness to rid this nation of our dependence on foreign oil and Big Oil interests," Pelosi told the news conference today. "Taking bold measures today to achieve energy independence within 10 years must be the highest priority for this Congress."
She said the Democratic-controlled House would work with the global religious, business and scientific communities to "continue robust research on global warming and produce policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously creating good-paying jobs."
Democrats want to work with Bush on this issue in a bipartisan way, "but we cannot afford to wait," she said. She pledged passage of "groundbreaking legislation that addresses global warming and energy independence."
Reid said that America's "dangerous dependence on oil" is among a number of national security challenges that have not been adequately confronted "because this administration has been all-consumed and, frankly, overwhelmed by its own failed policies in Iraq."
The U.S. military presence is leaving a big set of tracks in the Middle East, and it seems also, in Europe. The current administration's elephantine insistence on being everywhere in the world militarily produced this recent Financial Times story from Italy, "US base plan opens rift in Italian coalition" (1/18/07). To quote,
Members of Italy’s ruling centre-left coalition traded accusations of betrayal and irresponsibility on Thursday as a split opened in the government over the proposed expansion of a US military base near Venice.
Romano Prodi, prime minister, said on Tuesday he intended to allow the enlargement of the base at Vicenza in north-eastern Italy, but communists and other radical leftists in his coalition vowed to oppose the decision.
. . . The number of US military personnel would rise to about 4,500 from 2,750, and a new barracks would be built on the other side of Vicenza to the old base’s location.
This has raised local concerns about military traffic congestion and environmental damage, worries reflected in an opinion poll last October that showed 62 per cent of Vicenza residents opposed to the base’s enlargement.
Hurricane force winds left a recent trail of damage across Europe and forced a very turbulent landing in London for U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. This winter has been extraordinarily warm in Europe. The winds apparently, arose from an unusually strong jet stream. No one in the metereorological community has associated this with global warming, but it may come to that. Here is one of the many stories headlined, "Travellers suffer in storms' wake" (1/19/07) on BBC News. I quote:
Disruption caused by the UK's strongest storms in 17 years is continuing to affect travel across the country.
Ten people died and thousands of homes were left without power as gusts of up to 99mph battered the UK on Thursday.

Storm path from UK to eastern Europe - This headline reads, "Poland battered by deadly storm." On (1/19/07) from the BBC News, I quote,
Poland and the Czech Republic are the latest countries to have been hit by a storm that has swept northern Europe leaving at least 43 people dead.
At least six people were reported killed in Poland as winds of more than 200km/h (124mph) were recorded.
Germany, the UK, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands were picking themselves up on Friday after the storm passed.
Disagreement about steps to cut pollution - scientists and politicians alike around a small "Carbon World" are split about the life and death consequences of too much carbon dioxide on climate change/global warming. There will be U.S. congressional hearings, debate, and legislation about what to do about energy dependence and CO2 levels in 2007. Nor is the European Union agreed about what to do about the biggest offender, the carbon emitting automobile. See this headline,"EU split over whether to tighten car emissions rules," from today's Ludington Daily News. To quote,
Divisions emerged in the European Commission on Friday over plans to force car manufacturers to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the gas blamed for global warming.
The EU's executive arm is due to decide next week on proposals from EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas for legislation that will set mandatory targets for carmakers to reduce CO2 emissions.
Dimas says the industry has failed to cut pollution in line with a 2004 voluntary agreement.
U.S. reliance on the Middle East's oil produced the deadly path of a war in Iraq. EU leaders are justifiably leery of being in similar jeopardy regarding energy dependence on Russia. The Financial Times (1/19/07) carried the headline, "EU told to cut reliance on Russian energy." Quoting from the story,
The European Union must reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas by cutting energy consumption and developing alternative sources of supply, says Traian Basescu, the Romanian president.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Basescu urged the EU to take action to make itself less vulnerable to Russian political pressure or to events such as Moscow’s decision to cut gas supplies last year in a dispute with Ukraine and its move to interrupt oil shipments this year in a row with Belarus.
Mr Basescu said: “In the long run having a single energy supplier is against the European concept of market economy. We have to have competition. Even if this requires expensive investment we need to create conditions for competition because it is not only increasing competition but creating freedom for our decisions.”
A bumpy road between Russia and Belarus was what sent the European Union on the path of attempted prevention of further problems. This is the story headlined, "Oil Supply Resumes - EU seeks to avoid future disruptions." On (1/11/07) from the European Commission's website, I quote,
Talks between Russia and Belarus about transit tax have led to the resumption of oil supplies. The commission and the German presidency welcomed the end of the blockade, but urged Russia and Belarus to resolve their remaining differences concerning the Druzhba pipeline.
. . . The EU’s oil supply group met today (11 January) to discuss the EU’s response to the disruption of crude oil supplies. They stressed the need for dialogue with Russia to reinforce the security of oil supplies to the EU.
The EU currently has enough crude oil reserves to meet its needs, without disruption, for 120 days.
German and Spanish interests appear to be on a collision path with the EU over the takeover of the power group Endesa. And the European Union's authority is being questioned in the matter. The story, "Spanish power struggle carries on," is from the (1/19/07) BBC News:
Madrid says E.ON must climb higher to grab Endesa. The Spanish government is refusing to back down in a confrontation with the European Commission over conditions for the takeover of power group Endesa.
Madrid told Brussels it would not remove national caveats that are seen as favouring a Spanish bid for Endesa over its German suitor E.ON.
E.ON has been locked in a long-running battle with Spain's Gas Natural for control of Endesa.
Tail pipes and technology - We all love our cars. Our eyes have been glued to the television for several days as we watched the Barrett-Jackson "World's Greatest Collector Car Event,"from Scottsdale, Arizona. Spit-shined Fifties Chevys passed before our eyes. Classic 'Vettes voomed; there was even an old "Woodie." And north of Scottsdale in Las Vegas a bit earlier there was a car technology show that had already whetted folks' car appetites, The story of the event was headlined, "In-car technology drives forward" (1/19/07). It was carried in this BBC News article from which I quote:
They say many things about the Americans, but one thing that is true is that they love their cars - and they love accessorising them too.
In-car technology, or telematics, is a thriving business in the Unites States. At the recent CES technology show in Vegas they showed-off dashboard TV screens to watch whilst you waited for a parking space.
. . . The Global Positioning System (GPS) is at the core of many in-car streaming information systems. One US device that relies on the technology is able to warn drivers about hidden speed cameras.
. . . Probably the most important slot on your dashboard at the moment is the cigarette lighter and charger, but it is about to be joined by a USB port.
Sync is a new joint initiative by Microsoft and Ford. Once your gadgets are connected by USB or Bluetooth, the system phonetically reads all the information in your gadget's database, which you can quickly access by simply talking to it using the latest voice recognition technology.
Big tracks - or little tracks? It is all up to us and the car makers. Car makers are beginning to "get it," to focus more on fuel efficiency. Maybe the calculator in the first reference below will help you make smaller tracks also.
  • Calculator: "What Size is Your Carbon Footprint?" (uses Flash), at BP Global
  • In pictures -Storms Lash Europe BBC News
  • Tiempo Climate Newswatch - very content-rich climate change newsletter from the UK. I highly recommend this website.
  • Common Published on Sunday, February 22, 2004 by the Observer/UK: "Now the Pentagon Tells Bush: Climate Change Will Destroy Us. Secret Report Warns of Rioting and Nuclear War; Threat to the World is Greater than Terrorism" by Mark Townsend and Paul Harris
  • European Commission - main website
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