Saturday, December 30, 2006

Al Sharpton, Global Warming & Nuclear Power

Rev Alfred Charles Sharpton, Jr. is serious about global warming and supports nuclear power as a major part of the solution for mitigating the problem.

Reverend Sharpton showed his knoweledge about environmental and energy issues during his 2004 campaign for president at the Legaue of Conservation Voters-spsonsored debate in Los Angeles. AAEA President Norris McDonald, left with Sharpton, briefed the candidate for the debate.

We assume Rev Sharpton will run for the presidency again in 2008. If he wins we can expect the implementation of dynamic and effective environmental policies.

John Edwards, Global Warming & Nuclear Power

The jury is out on presidential candidate John Edwards. Although he was a cosponsor of the McCain/Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act, and the subsequent Climate Stewardship & Innovation Act, which included significant support for nuclear power, his specific position on nuclear power is unclear. He missed the vote on the bill - not that it would have made a difference. The ultimate vote was 43-55 against but every little bit helps. He was busy running as John Kerry's running mate for the presidency in 2003 at the time.

Al;though he was out of the Senate for the Energy Policy Act of 2005, he did not support previous versions of the legislation and considered it a giveaway to energy companies, saying that "Republicans wrote this energy bill in secret, and they wrote most of it simply to serve the energy companies, not the American people." This is not a good sign. The EPAct contained significant support for nuclear power. We are sure he will directly address this issue in the future and hopefully, if he is serious about mitigating the effects of global warming, he will support nuclear power because it does not emit any greenhouse gases and does not emit smog forming gases.

Update: On the Feb 4 broadcast of Meet the Press, John Edwards said he opposes Yucca Mountain and believes the waste should be stored at the power plants where it is produced. Edwards is quickly moving to the opposition column. Then again, Nevada, location of Yucca Mountain, is one of the earliest primaries. (More)

Be Aware

Friday, December 29, 2006

John McCain Is Great on Global Warming & Nuclear Power

We like Senator John McCain. John McCain is THE MAN. Republican Senator and presidential candidate John McCain gets it on energy, air quality and climate change. He has cosponsored climate change legislation with Senator Joe Lieberman (another visionary) and he is very approachable in the halls of the U.S. Senate. He cosponsored the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2005, which included significant support for nuclear power in addition to a cap and trade component.

Two years earlier, the Senate voted 43 to 55 to reject S.139, his previous bill, the Climate Stewardship Act of 2003, which would have required all U.S. power plants and industries to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG). McCain even bypassed Senator James Inhofe and the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee because he believes the GHG issue affects transportation, scientific research and other related issues and should be considered by his committee (Commerce, Science & Transportation).

The McCain-Lieberman legislation would establish a mandatory nationwide cap on emissions of carbon dioxide and other GHGs. Utilities, industries and transportation sources of the major greenhouse gases would have to limit their emissions to 2000 levels by 2010 and 1990 levels by 2016. The bill would establish a trading system allowing utilities and plants with excessive emissions to buy credits from more efficient companies that have reduced emissions beyond their targets. A similar system for sulfur dioxide has operated for years under the Clean Air Act to limit acid rain.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hillary Clinton & Rudy Giuliani on Nuclear Power

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), left, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), right, could be rivals for the presidency in 2008. They are on opposite sides of the nuclear power issue. Giuliani supports nuclear power and Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York. Clinton does not support nuclear power and cited it as one of her objections to voting for the final Conference Committee Report for the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was heavily pro nuclear. She voted for the Energy Policy Act of 2005 initially but voted against the final conference report(she voted for it before she voted against it). She does not call for the shutdown of Indian Point but does not support it either. She will probably oppose relicensing the plant. Clinton wants the NRC to conduct an independent safety assessment of Indian Point and she promotes upgraded emergency and evacuation plans for the facility.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), another potential presidential contender, co-sponsored a bill with Clinton in 2006 requiring plant owners to notify the NRC and local governments whenever a leak is discovered.

Update: Here is what Hillary Clinton says about nuclear power in her new climate change plan published in Nov 2007:

Hillary believes that energy efficiency and renewables are better options for addressing global warming and meeting our future power needs, because of significant unresolved concerns about the cost of producing nuclear power, the safety of operating plants, waste disposal, and nuclear proliferation. Hillary opposes new subsidies for nuclear power, but believes that we need to take additional steps to deal with the problems facing nuclear power. She would strengthen the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and direct it to improve safety and security at nuclear power plants; terminate work at the flawed Yucca Mountain site and convene a panel of scientific experts to explore alternatives for disposing of nuclear waste; and continue research, with a focus on lower costs and improving safety.

Be Aware

Barack Obama and Nuclear Power (Groundwater Leaks)

Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) wants to require reporting of unplanned radioactive releases. He believes the current self-regulation initiative is inadequate and has allowed tritium leaks to occur with a delay in the public finding out about it. The Nuclear Energy Institute's (NEI) "Groundwater Protection Initiative," describes the current voluntary policy, which aims to improve the handling of inadvertent releases of radioactive material into groundwater at the nation's 103 nuclear power plants. Under the initiative, all nuclear power companies will implement site-specific plans to ensure timely detection and responses when radioactive materials are released to groundwater starting in 2006.

The Nuclear Release Notice Act is backed in the Senate by Obama and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and in the House by Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.). It would require notification of federal, state and county officials when radioactive releases exceed federal limits or when two occur within a two-year span from the same source, process or equipment. It would "impose real penalties on plants" that fail to make notification. According to NEI, the voluntary initiative goes beyond the bill. The NEI initiative, approved unanimously by the trade group's membership, stems in part from Exelon Nuclear's acknowledgement that radioactive tritium spilled at Braidwood Generating Station in southwest Will County between 1996 and 2003, causing groundwater contamination. Exelon is being criticized for waiting years to tell the public about the spills. (Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility)

Barack Obama and Nuclear Power (Spent Fuel)


Groundwater Leaks


Be Aware

The Environment and Public Works Committee passed a provision in 2006 sponsored by U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) that requires the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to track unaccounted-for spent nuclear fuel rods used at power plants in the United States. Because spent nuclear fuel is periodically removed from reactors, Senator Obama believes all nuclear power plants should track their fuel better, and in the same way to keep these materials from falling into the wrong hands.

Obama's legislation was in response to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that showed the need for more adequate handling of spent fuel. The report showed that three plants - the Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Connecticut, the Vermont Yankee plant in Vermont, and the Humboldt Bay Power Plant in California - have reported missing spent fuel. The missing nuclear material from Millstone was never found. The unaccounted-for material at Vermont Yankee was found three months later in a location other than the one indicated by inventory records, and officials are still investigating the Humboldt Bay plant's missing spent nuclear material.

Obama's provision would require the NRC to establish specific and uniform guidelines for tracking, controlling and accounting for individual spent fuel rods or segments at nuclear power plants, including procedures for conducting physical inventories. The legislation would also establish uniform inspection procedures to ensure plants put these procedures in place. Senator Obama's provision was attached to S. 864, a bill to update the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. The provision did not become law.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

President Gerald R. Ford 1913 - 2006

Excerpt from Message to the Congress Transmitting Annual Report of the Council on Environmental Quality. February 27th, 1976

"We can be proud of the progress we have made in improving the Nation's environmental quality. Yet, we must meet additional challenges over the next few years. We must improve our understanding of the effects of pollutants and of the means and costs of reducing pollution. As we develop new energy sources and technologies we must assure that they meet environmental standards. We also must continue the job of cleaning up pollution from existing sources."

The White House

On Civil Rights: A Mixed Bag: Ford signed the extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, supported affirmative action programs at the University of Michigan, when he was nominated to be vice president by Nixon, all of the members of the CBC voted against him except Andrew Young of Georgia, he opposed busing, and did ot support the bill of Rep John Conyers to make Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. (The Washington Afro-American)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Word of the Year 2006: Carbon Neutral

According to the New Oxford American Dictionary the Word of the Year for 2006 is "Carbon Neutral." Okay. So it is two words, but you get the idea. Oxford University Press explains:

"Being carbon neutral involves calculating your total climate-damaging carbon emissions, reducing them where possible, and then balancing your remaining emissions, often by purchasing a carbon offset: paying to plant new trees orinvesting in 'green' technologies such as solar and wind power."

Of course we would add nuclear power to the offset mix.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Green Buildings

On December 5, 2006, the DC City Council unanimously passed the DC Green Building Act and the mayor is required to submit a comprehensive set of green building standards by no later than January 1, 2008. The GB Act requires private developers to apply standards that will make new buildings environmentally friendly, applies to buildings 50,000 square feet and larger and to all buildings that receive public financing of 20 percent or more.

The Washington, DC-based Green Building Council (GBC) certifies environmentally friendly buildings via its Leadership Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), above left. The Portland, Oregon-based Green Building Initiative (GBI) also issues green buildings certifications called Green Globes. The GBC standard was adopted in the DC bill is considered to be more stingent than the GBI standard.

Standards do not require specific features, but award credits in categories such as site selection, energy and water efficiency, and materials. A building must get a certain number of credits to be certified. Green buildings include natural light, windows that open, low-flow water fixtures or no-flush urinals, which use a chemical trap instead of water.

Washington, DC joins Pasadena, Calif., and Montgomery County, Md, which adopted the standards earlier this year. LEED standards have been adopted in 18 states and 11 federal agencies for their own projects.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Intercounty Connector Lawsuit Is 20th Century Thinking

Environmental Defense, the Sierra Club, Audubon Naturalist Society, Maryland Native Plant Society and a family on the Intercounty Connector (ICC) route filed lawsuits in U.S. District Court contending the air air quality anaylsis was inadequate and federal officials failed to consider reasonable alternives to the highway. This is a nuisance lawsuit that seeks to thwart the will of the people in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Fortunately, governor-elect Martin O'Malley is committed to completing the essential thoroughfare.

The two court challenges reperesnt the outdated thinking of environmental groups that oppose all development projects as a reflex action. Congestion will be relieved by the ICC, thus reducing additional smog production and reducing travel times. An outer beltway would go far in further enhancing the air and travel times in the region. AAEA supported the project during the public hearings. We are sure it will withstand legal scrutiny. We just wish these groups would spend their time and resources on real solutions to air pollution in the region instead of relying on anachronistic litigation to impose their faux-green views on the region. (AP, Wash Times, Wash Post)

Richest Black County Has Most Violent Schools in State

Prince George's County is the richest majority black county in the United States. It also leads the state of Maryland in students suspended for offenses. There were 13,598 students suspended during the 2005-2006 school year. This represents ten percent of the 133,000 students in the county. Offenses leading to suspensions range from carrying weapons, fighting and disrupting classes to areson and sex offenses.

There were 22,564 offenses in the 2005-2006 school year (exceeds suspensions because of multiple offenses by same student). Most offenses, 9,063, were for disrespect, insubordination or disruption. There were 6,073 attacks, threats or fighting, 492 weapons offenses, 358 dangerous substance offenses, 158 arson, fire or explosives offenses, 148 sex offenses and 6,272 offenses listed as "other."

Unfortunately, of the 6,073 attacks, 333 suspensions were for physical attacks on teachers or staff members and 339 suspensions for verbal or physical threats to teachers or staff members. One thing is clear, there needs to be more severe penalties for all acts of violence in the schools (Sources: Maryland State Department of Education, The Gazette: Clinton, Ft. Washington)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Black Duck in Decline in Mid-Atlantic Region

According to The Washington Times the black duck is in decline and scientists do not know why. The article states that the black duck is favored by hunters yet there are questions as to why the black duck is nowhere to be seen in hunting country. Scientists speculate that it could be waterfront development ruining the wetlands and fading duck foodstuff. Of course white mute swans are considered to be in overabundance and even pose a threat to submerged vegetation.

According to the article, Ducks Unlimited has begun a $1 million research project to better understand the decline of the black duck. Man, the inner city could use some of that money. No black ducks there either. Virginia wants to put satellite-tracking devices on some black ducks to see where they go. (Hopefully away from the hunting areas).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

13 States & DC Sue EPA Over Soot

EPA issued a rule in Sept 2006 to reduce the amount of soot in the air in a 24-hour perod from 65 micrograms per cubic meter of air to 35 micrograms. Blue states wanted a 13 microgram per cubic meter per day standard so they sued EPA, believing that thousands of additional premature deaths could be prevented: 1) New York 2) Vermont 3) Rhode Island 4) Pennsylvania 5) Oregon 6) New Mexico 7) New Jersey 8) New Hampshire 9) Maine 10) Illinois 11) Delaware 12) Conecticut 13) California & Wash DC.

Some industry groups believe the 35 microgram standard is too stringent and have sued to increase the starndard: Nat'l Cattlemen's Beef Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Farm Bureau Federation & Nat'l Pork Producers Council. (Wash Post)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pollution Even Finds Blacks in Outer Space

The Washington Post recently reported that black astronaut Robert L. Curbeam Jr, left, was exposed to highly toxic ammonia on a previous mission in 2001 and could be exposed again during a risky repair job on the current mission. Disproportionate levels of pollution being located in minority communites is well documented from the environmental justice movement, but we had no idea this extends into low Earth orbit.

In 2001 ammonia leaked from a cooling line and coated Captain Curbeam's spacesuit. His helmet and suit were covered with an inch of frozen ice crystal ammonia and he had to stay outside for an entire orbit so the Sun could evaporate the ammonia. Captain Cuream is replacing a cooling pump on the current space shuttle mission and could be exposed to ammonia again. Capt Curbeam's nickname is Beamer.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

CBC Says Hostile Minority Hiring Environment on Hill

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is complaining about the lack of minorites working on Capitol Hill. The CBC has sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi requesting mitigation of the descrimination. It is estimated that there are less than 50 Blacks among the hundreds of committee staff positions. What else is new? The environmental movement is worse.

A rumor circulating around Capitol Hill is that Republicans have a better reputation for hiring minorities than Democrats. The Democrats 'talk' a better game though. Then there is that modern fake: "We had no idea." The running joke on Capitol Hill is, "The only people who hire Blacks and Hispanics around here are Blacks, Hispanics and Republicans."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Congressional Black Caucus Supports Tax Relief Act

The Congressional Black Caucus supported the Tax Relief and Health Care Act, H.R. 6111, which included the offshore oil drilling provisions it opposed 29-9 earlier in the year. The CBC voted in favor of the tax bill by 27-7 with opponents including: Conyers, Hastings, Jackson, Lee, Meek, McKinney, & Payne. Fattah, Ford and Watson did not vote.

Congress Includes Energy Measures In Tax Bill Then Adjourns

The final Senate vote was 79-9 and the final House vote was 367-45. The legislation included a provisions to open 8.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling, which has been off-limits to exploration. The new law also provides tax credits for alternative energy producers and purchases of solar energy equipment by homeowners and businesses.

The drilling measure provides 37.5 percent of the royalties from oil and natural gas produced from Lease Area 181 of the Gulf of Mexico to Gulf producing states. The stateside Land and Water Conservation Fund would receive 12.5 percent. The other 50 percent would go to the federal treasury.

The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act is part of a massive tax-trade-health care package measure, HR.6111. The energy tax provisions in the HR.6111 package include:

* Extending of credit for electricity produced from certain renewable resources. This extension for one year is critical to continued installation of commercial electricity generation projects from wind and solar sources. Extending the credit a full year before it was set to expire on December 31, 2007
* Extending a 30 percent tax credit for the purchase of residential solar water heating, photovoltaic equipment, and fuel cell property. Expires after December 31, 2008.
* Extending 30 percent business credit, established in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, for the purchase of fuel cell power plants, solar energy property, and fiber-optic property used to illuminate the inside of a building. After December 31, 2008, the credit reverts to a permanent 10 percent level.
* Extending of tax credit to holders of clean renewable energy bonds.
* Modifying of the clean coal gasification tax credit by providing a technical fix to the 2005 Energy Policy Act by setting a different reduction target for sulfur dioxide emissions from sub-bituminous coal, which already is a low-sulfur coal, in order to qualify for investment tax credits for installing clean coal technology.
* Extension of deduction for energy efficient commercial buildings extending for one year a deduction for energy-efficient commercial buildings that reduce annual energy and power consumption by 50 percent.
* Extension for one year of a business credit to eligible contractors for building energy efficient new homes.
* Extending for one year a residential credit of 30 percent for purchasing qualified photovoltaic property and solar water heating property, and for qualified fuel cell power plants.
* Extending for one year a 30 percent energy credit for the business installation of qualified fuel cells, stationary microturbine power plants, and solar equipment.
* Extending a reduced excise tax rate for qualified methanol or ethanol fuel produced from coal.
* New special depreciation allowance for cellulosic biomass ethanol plant property.
* Modification of the coke and coke gas production tax credit. (Source: Environment News Service)

Publishing Companies Want to be Carbon Neutral

Publishing companies such as Time Inc (division of Time Warner), Hearst Corporation, News Corporation want to become carbon neutral according to a Heinz Center Study. According to the Energy Insormation Administration (EIA) the paper industry is the fourth largest emitter of carbon dioxide after chemical, petroleum and coal industries. Electric utilities account for 40 percent and cars account for 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, according to Princeton Univ's Michael Oppenheimer. The paper industry includes magazines, newspapers, catalogs and writing paper. Paper production produces a lot of carbon dioxide.

The big question is how can paper producers reduce their carbon dioxide production. In addition to advertisers requesting more accountablity, companies can purchase carbon offsets - carbon reducing activities that make up for greenhouse emissions. For instance, Time estimates that an average copy of their magazine produces about 0.29 pound of greenhouse gas emissions. Newsweek, which is owned by the Washington Post, and the newspaper should consider utilizing such carbon offsets. AAEA is developing a carbon offset program. Source: NYT

Saturday, December 09, 2006

HIV & Malaria in Africa: Does the Mosquito Spread Both

It is estimated that 40 million Africans are infected with HIV (UNAIDS)) whereas 300 million to 500 million suffer from malaria each year (World Health Organization). HIV is spread from person to person mostly by sexual contact, whereas malaria is spread by infected mosquitoes. The severe symptoms of malaria are caused by the tiny parasite Plasmodium falciparum and bring death to about 15 to 25% of those infected, dying when large quantities of infected red blood cells are destroyed in a single burst. HIV infection depletes immunologically important white blood cells causing AIDS, which results in death for most untreated patients. Interactions between antimalarial drugs and antiretroviral drug therapy can lead to an excessive risk of toxicity.

But can mosquitoes spread HIV?

With malaria the organisms survive and multiply in the insect, whereas HIV does not survive outside the body for very long, and it does not replicate in insects. Mosquitoes transmit malaria when they inject saliva into the victim. HIV does not get into the insect's saliva much and mosquitoes do not inject blood into the victim. Blood that remains on the bug's mouth or other body parts after it bites an AIDS victim also does not pose much risk, because the amount of blood present is very small, and the insect usually does not go directly from one feeding to another. (iVillage Health & Well Being) (About).

Monday, December 04, 2006

Speculation Chemicals Having Hormonal Effects on Humans

Researchers fear that chemicals in the environment have created compounds with hormonelike effects that could have negative effects upon humans. Industry reps dispute the speculations. U.S. Reps James P. Moran (D-Md) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) are asking EPA to test chemicals for hormonelike effects. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments is hosting a public forum on hormone disrupting pollution in the Spring of 2007.

Researchers believe the peculiar pollution could contribute to diabetes, birth defects, infertility, reproductive defects, immune system alterations and obesity. Some researchers believe intersex fish, pictured above left, may occur as a result of chemicals in the water that mimic or antagonize hormone levels. Three sources of concern being examined are: 1) Bisphenol A, 2) Phthalates and 3) Treated Sewage. (Wash Post) Photo courtesy FWS

Hugo Chavez Reelected & Sells Cheap Oil on USA Television

Hugo Chavez, right, is on a roll. He calls President Bush "the devil" at the United Nations headquarters and proceeds to partner with Joe Kennedy's Citizens Energy Corporation to air television commercials offering heating oil at 40% below market rates. Citgo is the Venezuelan government-owned oil company. The commercials are running in 16 states and folks can call 1-877-JOE-4-OIL.

Why didn't Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover and Cornel West try to negotiate some sort of African American ownership of energy infrastruture or oil when they met with Chavez earlier this year? Instead, they simply went to Venezuela and denounced President Bush. Joe Kennedy, left, has been operating CEC for over 20 years. You would think that black leadership or entrepreneurship could have negotiated the ownership of at least one oil tanker during that time. Where is the American Association of Blacks in Energy when you need them?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Maryland Senate Environmental Committee Chairwoman

Maryland Senate President Mike Miller has made an excellent selection in appointing Joan Carter Conway, right, as the new Chair of the Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee. AAEA President Norris McDonald served on the Maryland Advisory Council on Environmental Justice with Senator Conway and she distinguished herself on that panel. She is a visionary with a commitment to promoting practical solutions to problems. Senator Conway has vast experience and has held a number of important position during her career.

A selected list of her service and appointments include, member of Senate since January 8, 1997. Vice-Chair, Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, 2003- 2006. Wetlands and Waterways Funding Work Group, 2004; Agricultural Stewardship Commission, 2005-06; Senate Special Commission on Electric Utility Deregulation Implementation, 2005-06. Secretary, Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland (formerly Maryland Legislative Black Caucus), 1998- 2006. Member, Advisory Council on Environmental Justice, 1997-99; Task Force on Indoor Air Quality, 2001-02; Member, Israel Baptist Church. Married; one son; two grandchildren.

Friday, December 01, 2006

2 Blacks on Same Shuttle: There Goes the Neighborhood

When a critical mass of blacks move into a white neighborhood, all or most of the whites move out. The pattern was clearly established in virtually every city in the U.S. in the 20th Century. The environment in space will probably be no different. We figure soon there will be shuttles with all black crews on the dark side of the Earth and all white crews on the sun side. Just as on Earth, there can't be too much race mixing in outer space. Maybe NASA didn't get the memo.

Seriously, it is great that it has become common for blacks to travel in space. Special thanks to Booker Rising for pointing this out. Joan Higginbotham, above left, and Robert Curbeam Jr, above right, will blast off from Cape Kennedy on December 7 for 12 days in space.

Higginbotham, 42, is from Chicago and Curbeam, 44, is from Baltimore. Both will be working on the International Space Station. Curbeam will make a couple of spacewalks to help rewire the station. You had to know they would put the brother on a construction crew :) Two other black women have flown in space on the shuttle, Dr. Mae Jemison and Stephanie Wilson (earlier this year). Higginbotham has an electrical engineering degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Curbeam attended Top Gun flight school and has an aerospace engineering degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and an aeronautical engineering degree from the Naval Postgraduate School.

Guin Buford was the first Black male to fly in space in 1983. Ronald McNair died in the Challenger explosion shortly after liftoff and Michael Anderson was lost in 2003 when the space shuttle burned and exploded during reentry. (The Washington Afro American)