Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Some Want To Believe Blacks Caused The Financial Crisis

Evidently the Black poor bought so many homes that all of Wall Street collapsed under the forclosures. Yeah. And we have a bridge we want to sell you too.

Let us set the record straight: Black subprime mortgage purchases could NOT have caused the collapse of Wall Street. Not enough Blacks. Not enough Black mortgage purchases to do it. Nice try though if people who don't like Blacks anyway want just another excuse to scapegoat the Negro. You know who you are. Actually it is political too. Some want to tie this image to Barack Obama so he will lose the election. That is why ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) is being highlighted, particularly ACORN-Chicago. Racialists are also vilifying the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) of 1977 as the tool used to blackmail banks into just shoveling bad loans out to black poor. Please. And lastly, it is all brought together by tying Franklin Raines reign at Fannie Mae to Barack Obama to ACORN and CRA pimping and you have the black cause of the collapse of American capitalism. The lengths some go to to fuel bias against Blacks.

Let's look at the numbers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Black homeownership rates went up from 44% in 1996 to 47% in 2007. This compares to a homeowner rate of 72% by Whites. Blacks make up 13% of the U.S. population and these stats show that about half of those households have mortgages. The 3% increase in homeownership among Black households from 1996 to 2007 simply does not have the numbers to serve as the stimulus for the foreclosure meltdown. In 2006 there were 8.4 million Black family households compared to approximately 116,011,000 total households in the U.S., according the the U.S. Census Bureau. Half of this total would equal 4.2 million mortgage-holding households. Even if half of those defaulted on their loans, it would still represent less than 2% of all mortgages. There is no way even this overestimated number of foreclosures could bring down even Fannie Mae, which routinely expected default rates of 1% in its annual portfolio.

Plus, one would have to ignore many other obvious reasons for the financial crisis before picking on the Blacks, including: mark-to-market, short selling, book cooking, speculators, and white household mortgage foreclosures.

Of course, numbers, facts and reality do not matter if one is determined to find a reason to hate African Americans.

The Chicago Tribune Decries "Chicago's Toxic Air"

According to a Chicago Tribune article entitled, "Chicago's Toxic Air:"

"People living in Chicago and nearby suburbs face some of the highest risks in the nation for cancer, lung disease and other health problems linked to toxic chemicals pouring from industry smokestacks..."
Cook County is ranked worst in the nation for dangerous air pollution and Chicago was among the 10 worst cities in the U.S. based on 2005 data from an Environmental Protection Agency report. In Will and DuPage Counties, six factories rank in the region's worst 50. Two large visible pollution sources include the Mittal Steel plant in Riverdale and the Corn Products refinery in Bedford Park. An Avery Dennison plant in Niles had the third highest risk score in Cook County. No-Sag Foam Products in West Chicago ranking as DuPage County's third-highest risk score. The polluter ranked as the worst in Cook County— Chicago Castings Co. in Cicero closed this year.

One factory behind Cook County's high risk score is the A. Finkl and Sons steel mill just west of Lincoln Park. Finkl plans to close the mill near Lincoln Park, where the population is 84 percent white, and move to another site on East 93rd Street on the Southeast Side, a neighborhood that is 96 percent black.

According to the article by reporters Michael Hawthorne and Darnell Little:

"Minority neighborhoods have been hit hardest, from the mostly Latino enclave of Pilsen to mostly black communities on the city's South and West Sides. Of the Top 50 polluters in Cook County in 2005, 60 percent are where black or Latino residents outnumber whites. Nearly two dozen of the region's top polluters are within 8 miles of the Altgeld Gardens public housing project off 130th Street on the Far South Side, where nearly all residents are African-American. The two-story brick apartments are surrounded by steel mills, abandoned factories, landfills and a sewage treatment plant."
AAEA was contacted and briefed by Anielle Lipe with a referral by Cheryl Johnson to look into this issue. Cheryl Johnson has worked on pollution issues in South Chicago for decades and is the daughter of long time activist Hazel Johnson. Source: The Chicago Tribune, 9/28/08

Additional Information:

EPA Risk Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI)

Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO)

EPA Toxics Release Inventory Of Illinois (TRI-Illinois)

New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici Retiring

Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) served as Chairman of the powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee from 2003-2007. Although he received low ratings for his environmental voting record from the League of Conservation Voters, and even Republicans for Environmental Protection, he leaves a great environmental accomplishment by shepherding the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Although not generally recognized as such, EPAct of 2005 is probably the signal most important climate change mitigation legislation passed to date because of the provisions to support nuclear power. These plants emit no carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.

Senator Domenici is retiring because of health reasons; he suffers from frontotemporal lobar degeneration, a degenerative brain ailment. We salute Senator Domenici for his dedication to energy security in the United States. We also wish him well on his journey into retirement. We also offer an invitation: feel free to volunteer with us to continue promoting the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) and our other international energy activities. We could use your help.

AAEA President Norris McDonald is pictured above right with Senator Domenici at Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the signing of the EPAct of 2005.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Plans For 3rd Nuclear Plant at Calvert Cliffs Probably Dead

As much as we support building a new nuclear power plant at Calvert Cliffs, we have to realistically conclude that the project is dead because of Warren Buffet's recently announced plan to buy Constellation. We say this for several reasons:

1) Constellation's failed attempt to merge with Florida Power and Light a couple years ago.

2) Warren Buffet will not spend the money [plant would cost him as much as the company].

3) Electricite de France (EdF) outbid Buffet for Constellation but was still rejected by Constellation.

4) EdF is buying British Energy for $23.2 billion.

5) The Wall Street meltdown and Congress' refusal to bail them out.

EdF is in partnership with Constellation to build a new type of nuclear power plant called an EPR (Evolutionary Power Reactor). The design has yet to be approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The cancellation of this plant would be a huge problem for the nuclear industry. This is also a very serious situation for future electricity reliability for our nation's capital and the region.

This situation definitely puts more pressure on Dominion to add a second reactor to its plans to build a new nuclear power plant at its North Anna facility in Louisa County, Virginia. Dominion has an application pending for NRC design certification approval of the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor(s) it wants to build at the site.

Renewable Energy Tax Credits Probably Dead In 110th Congress

Update: We were wrong. Congress rallied. The renewables package was placed in the financial system bailout bill and was passed by both chambers and signed into law by President Bush.
Unless Congress comes back after the elections for a lame duck session, the tax extensions for wind, solar and other renewables are dead. The House and Senate are passing bills 'at' each other instead of 'with' each other. The result during this session is that offshore oil drilling prohibitions expired, allowing exploration with 3 miles of all shores, which AAEA opposes and expiration of renewables tax credits for wind and solar at the end of this year.

The House passed an energy bill (H.R. 6049) the Senate did not like and the Senate passed an amended bill that the House ignored. The House then passed (Sept 26) a Blue Dog bill (H.R. 7060) that included provisions (tax hikes in other areas to offset) that are unacceptable to President Bush and the Senate.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson's Tech Braintrust

President's Corner: By Norris McDonald

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson knows how to put on a forum. She sponsored her 16th forum at the 2008 Annual Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. But don't think that she just goes through the motions. Clearly she orchestrated this event like a maestro. Her staff operated like a finely tuned precision team. They produced art. Thank you. See videos below:

Congresswoman Johnson met us for Breakfast at 7 a.m. at the Grand Cafe at the Grand Hyatt hotel. She got to know each panelist a little by participating in engaging conversation. This was the first conference for some of the panelists and one would have thought that it was the congresswoman's too based on her enthusiam. The buffet breakfast was excellent too. And to top this off she provided exquisite chaffeured transportation for the panelists to the convention center. She made us feel like stars.

The theme of the Science and Technology Braintrust was "Today's Technology for Tomorrow's Environment." Congresswoman's Bernice Johnson's statement:

Thank you for attending the 2008 Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Science and Technology Braintrust. As a senior member on the House Committee on Science & Technology, I am dedicated to diversifying our domestic workforce in fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Exchanging ideas and engaging in a dialogue is essential in recruiting and developing our next generation of STEM professionals. During this year's S&T Braintrust we will examine the next generation of environmental technology.
It is my hope that today's discussion will inspire our next generation of scientists to pursue careers in the STEM fields.

Your participation is key for a successful Braintrust. I believe that today's discussions will spark imaginations and leave each of us with a new viewpoint.

The panelists included (in order of presentation):

Sheryl Lee Ralph, Actress and education advocate
Norris McDonald, President, African American Environmentalist Association
Miquela Craytor, Executive Director, Sustainable South Bronx
Miranda Anderson, Director of Corporate Affairs for Sustainability, Wal-Mart
Bob Langert, V.P. of Corporate Social Responsibility, McDonald's
Curtis Etherly, V.P. of Public Affairs, Coca-Cola

- Cynné Simpson - Anchor, ABC7/WJLA-TV - Moderator

Congresswoman Johnson recruited about 40 high school students to attend the forum.
They were bright eyed, enthusiastic and asked interesting questions. Sheryl Lee Ralph provided an inspirational message to them and they responded accordingly. They rushed the stage after the presentation to meet her. She was very accomdating and patiently engaged each and every student who approached her. It is also interesting that Ms. Ralph costarred in "The Distinguished Gentleman" with actor Eddie Murphy, which was based in Washington, D.C. with Mr. Murphy playing a congressman.

The forum was well attended with a standing room only packed house. After the forum, the congresswoman's militarily efficient staff herded us back to our transportation at the front of the convention center and we were wisked to The Willard Hotel for a fabulous lunch sponsored by Texas Instruments and a presentation on, "Dropouts, Diplomas, and Dollars-U.S. High Schools and the Nation's Economy," by former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise.

All-in-all it was a wonderful event. I attended my first CBC conference in 1979 and I organized the first Energy Braintrust for the late Congressman Mickey Leland. But this was far and away the best event I have ever participated in at a CBC conference. Thank you Congresswoman Johnson.

I am pictured with Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Jones, top, and actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, bottom.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Green Jobs Now: Day of Action

Green Jobs Now (GJN) is a day [Saturday, September 27, 2008] of action planned by Van Jones,' left, Green For All, 1Sky, and Al Gore's WE Campaign, along with scores of partners and hundreds of communities across the country.

Green Jobs Now has organized nearly 600 Green Jobs Now events in all 50 states! GJN principals are building a movement to lift millions of people out of poverty and solve the climate crisis.

Goals for the National Day of Action

1. Encourage elected leaders and presidential candidates to prioritize green jobs and an inclusive green economy.

2. Build a powerful and diverse base of organizers, promoting the movement for green jobs as the best way to fight poverty and global warming.

3. Elevate the voices of low-income people, people of color and other vulnerable constituencies in the movement for green jobs.

President Bush Opposes Revised House Energy Bill

Fresh from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB): September 25, 2008



H.R. 7060 – Renewable Energy and Job Creation Tax Act of 2008 (Rep. Rangel(D-NY)

As outlined in a Statement of Administration Policy to the Senate dated September 23, 2008, the Administration supports the bipartisan compromise agreed to overwhelmingly in the Senate. That compromise provides protection for about 26 million Americans from an unwelcome tax increase in the form of the Alternative Minimum Tax and would extend current law relating to certain business and individual tax incentives.

The Administration is disappointed that the House has decoupled this legislation from AMT relief and insisted on raising taxes on certain classes of Americans in order to extend current law. By doing so, the House invites certain delay of this important piece of legislation being signed into law, which could disrupt the upcoming individual income tax filing season, and potentially delay tax refunds for American families. The Administration urges the House to adopt the Senate Amendments to H.R. 6049 passed by the Senate on September 23, 2008, in their entirety.

If H.R. 7060 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto this bill.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act Amendments Approved by the Senate

The Senate Amendments [Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 and Tax Extenders and Alterntive Minimum Tax Relief Act of 2008] to H.R. 6049, the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008 (REJCA) passed 93-2 in the Senate on Sept 16, 2008 and is now headed to a House and Senate Conference Committee for a final version to be hammered out. If an agreeable bill can then be approved by Congress, it will go to President Bush, who will probably sign it unless some objectionable provision or provisions are still in the legislation. President Bush supports the Senate Amendments but opposes the House version because of a provision to take away oil company tax benefits to fund the renewable energy package. AAEA opposes the expanded offshore drilling provisions in the House version of the bill.

REJCA will amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide incentives for energy
production and conservation, to extend certain expiring provisions, to provide individual income tax relief, and for other purposes.

H.R. 6049 is sponsored by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY), right. The Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 is sponsored by Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).


Renewable Energy Incentives
Section 101 -

Extends: (1) through 2009 the tax credit for producing electricity from qualified wind facilities; and (2) through 2011 the tax credits for producing electricity from closed and open-loop biomass, geothermal or solar energy, small irrigation power, municipal solid waste, trash combustion, and qualified hydropower.

Section 103 -
Extends through 2014 the energy tax credit for solar energy, fuel cell, and microturbine property.

Carbon Mitigation Provisions
Section 111 -

Increases to 30% the investment tax credit rate for power generation projects using integrated gasification combined cycle and other advanced coal-based generation technology projects.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Urban Farmer Will Allen Receives MacArthur 'Genius' Award

Will Allen, above, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin has been named one of this year's recipients of the prestigious "genius" grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The grant recognizes Allen's work bringing affordable fresh produce and quality grass-fed meats to the urban poor and educating communities about sustainable farming. The Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation awarded Allen $500,000 over the next five yeara to use however he wishes. Allen, 59, also received $100,000 in 2005 from the Ford Foundation on behalf of urban farming work. Allen is a former professional basketball player in the ABA and he cofounded Growing Power in 1993 in Milwaukee to help teach inner-city kids about the origins of their food.

Growing Power works to ensure that low-income neighborhoods have access to fresh fruits and vegetables via farmers' markets and other programs. The group runs a two-acre urban farm in Milwaukee and a 40-acre plot in Merton, Wisconsin that teachs sustainable, low-cost farming techniques to people of all ages and backgrounds. Growing Power has also spread to Chicago, where Allen's daughter Erika runs a program that includes a community garden, education programs for would-be farmers and gardeners, and an organic farm in Grant Park. [Sources: Grist, Chicago Sun-Times, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, The MacArthur Foundation]

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Should Blacks Own Coal Mines in a Global Warming World?

No African Americans own coal mines in the United States. Except for Nigerian-born Kase Lawall's offshore oil drilling operation based in Houston, Texas, Blacks do not generally own any component of America's energy infrastructure [See Energy Policy for Blacks]. We know the historical reasons for this phenomenon, but it is still baffling that in the 21st Century, Blacks are not operating in this important sector. So the question remains, in a global warming world should Blacks own coal mines? What about rail cars for shipping coal? coal-fired (50 percent), nuclear (20 percent),
oil and natural gas (21 percent), hydroelectric (7 percent), and the remainder includes wind, solar and other. According to Peabody Coal, The estimate of coal’s share of U.S. electricity generation has been raised to 57 percent by 2030. Total U.S. coal demand is now estimated to grow from 1.1 billion tons per year in 2005 to nearly 1.8 billion tons per year by 2030. If you're selling coal, you're making money. Do the math.

You know how mainstream greens will answer this question. They are uncompromising and have no empathy for African American entrepreneurship. Of course, although coal is an extremely valuable resource it contributes to global warming and smog. Coal currently supplies 52 percent of America's electricity needs. Coal is about a third of the cost of natural gas and it is estimated that there is hundreds of years worth in the ground. Coal produces significant amounts of sulfur dioxide (SO2) that creates acid rain as well as the nitrogen oxide (NOx) that causes smog and soot. Coal plants also generate the majority of the industry's carbon dioxide (CO2) and mercury emissions.

List of Coal Companies

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Implications of Our Name

We love our name and believe it sounds very good. Yet we know that some, particularly many whites, are distracted by our name. Though they will not voice it in most instances, it is offputting because it seems exclusive to blacks. It could appear to be some sort of separatist entity that is 'for blacks only.' Yet we are simply an environmental group that works on many environmental and energy issues, but also places some focus on the black community. Much as the National Wildlife Federation works on energy policy too, but puts an emphasis on wildlife protection.

We are proud of our name and it reflects our belief that the black community in virtually every city in the United States is usually the most vulnerable in terms of pollution exposures. Yet most of the resources of our federal agencies and private environmental groups are not aggressively addressing the problems in these communities. So although we address environmental issues that affect the planet and neighbors everywhere, we also seek to put some additional work into the areas that are impacted the most.

It does frustrate us sometimes though that we know our name prevents us from getting the publicity, funding and recognition for specific victories in many many instances. And this happens even from entities that consider us to be their 'friends.' Regardless, we will continue to do good work to the extent our resources allow. We also hope that one day, just as 'nuclear power' has come to be embraced more, that 'African American' too will be embraced as well.

Oh. And we do not use the hyphen because it does not look good.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

AAEA Opposes Offshore Drilling Legislation in Congress

[The bill passed 236-189 in the House and will never see the light of day in the Senate.]

[But Congress must pass a bill to continue the moratorium on drilling by Sept 30, 2008 or drilling can start up to 3 miles offshore of all coasts.]

AAEA opposes the Comprehensive American Energy and Security, Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 6899) because it starts the process of opening the door to oil extraction that could permanently damage offshore marine environments and precious beaches. A summary of titles with descriptions:


Renewable Energy and Efficiency Tax Incentives.


Royalty Reform: Making Oil Companies Pay Their Fair Share for Drilling on Public Lands.


Strengthen Energy Efficiency in Buildings to Bring Down Costs.


Compromise on Drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. President Bush lifted the 27 year (extended yearly) bipartisan legislative moratorium banning offshore drilling, which will end on September 30, 2008 and if not continued by Congress will allow drilling to take place as close as 3 miles offshore. The compromise would permit leasing between 50 and 100 miles offshore if a State ‘opts-in’ to allow leasing off its coastline by enacting state law. The remaining Outer Continental Shelf beyond 100 miles would be open to oil and gas leasing. Require Oil Companies to use the 68 Million Acres of Federal Lands They Already Control.

Source: Hill Heat

Washington Nationals Park Naming Rights: Green v. Red

Some environmental groups are complaining about the possibility of Nationals Park selling its naming rights to ExxonMobil. Nationals Park is the first LEED-certified green stadium in the U.S.A., in part because of its proximity to a Metro 'Navy Yard' subway station. Does this mean the naming rights should be restricted to a company approved by the environmental movement, one of the most segregated sectors of American society in a majority African American city? The movement should consider integrating itself first before seeking to dictate about city imagery. Moreover, the environmental movement is a $6 billion a year industry and if they don't want ExxonMobil, or any other company they disapprove of, to get the naming rights, then they should put up the money or shut up. These groups arrogantly want to preach to the Washington Nationals about what they should do instead of 'walking the walk.'

Family is the principal owner of the Washington Nationals baseball team, the District of Columbia government put up the $611 million to build Nationals Park. So there might be some compromise about naming rights that would give the team naming rights to the luxury suites area and the city naming rights to the stadium. We believe it should be named Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Park. Now if the city wants to use the green group logic on this, we would love for Nationals Park to be renamed African American Environmentalist Association Park. We doubt this would be acceptable by the old greens because we do not purely adhere to old school green NIMBY BANANA * dogma. The Nationals might not want to comment on this, but we surely will. The Nationals should tell the greens to put up or shut on on this issue if they are criticized about their decision.

* Not In My Back Yard Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything

Muslims Reducing Carbon Footprint: Green Guide for Muslims

A green guide to help Muslim households reduce climate change has been published jointly by Lifemakers UK and the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES), with Muslim Hands, the Nottingham based charity meeting production costs. The booklet explains the impact of climate change using Islamic references and also explains why Muslims must do their bit for the environment.

The Green Guide is unique in that it is a simple, practical handbook that looks at different aspects of the Muslim household and suggests changes that can have a big impact on climate change. These include decisions about domestic food, water, laundry, heating, electricity, transport and recycling. At the end of the 20 page booklet is also a 'How green is my family' checklist that gives households something positive to aim towards. The booklet has been printed in time for Ramadan, the month in which Muslims are most reflective of their actions. For more information about the Green Guide please contact Raja on 07956 983 609 or Shaid on 0787 969 4540 or IFEES e-mail or visit the IFEES website.

Muslims comprise at least one fifth of the human community and they can contribute much to the thinking that is vital to re-evaluate the future direction of the human community and save its home for itself and other life forms. From tentative beginnings in the mid 1980's IFEES has established itself as perhaps the only internationally recognised body articulating the Islamic position on these matters and at the same time attempting to give practical manifestation to this. IFEES is a multi-dimensional organisation and its objectives include:

- Research and the dissemination of information
- Producing teaching materials, books and journals
- Training on practical and theoretical subjects
- The setting up of an experimental centre focusing on land use and organic farming and also the development of alternative technology.

IFEES networks world-wide with NGOs, international organisations, academic bodies and grass roots organisations and invites collaboration from organisations and individuals from all persuasions who are also dedicated to the maintenance of the Earth as a healthy habitat for future generations of humankind as well as other living beings.

Monday, September 15, 2008

CBC Energy & Environmental Issues Forums and Braintrusts

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Annual Conference is holding its largest number of forums and braintrusts on energy and environmental issues in its history. AAEA President Norris McDonald organized the very first energy braintrust for the late Congressman Mickey Leland in 1981. Now numerous CBC members are addressing these vitally important issues.

The conference is being held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The theme of this year's annual conference is, "Embracing the Promise, Realizing the Vision," and the members sponsoring panels include:

Carolyn C. Kilpatrick: "The New Green: A Climate Change for Environmental Justice."

Sheila Jackson Lee: "Our Children are Dying Because of the Global Food and Water Crisis: What Should We Do Next?"

Donna Edwards: "Making Up for Lost Time: Picking Up the Environmental Pieces that the Bush Administration Left Behind."

Eddie Bernice Johnson: "Science and Technology Braintrust: Youth involvement: Today's Technology for Tomorrow's Environment." [AAEA on panel]

James Clyburn: "Environmental Justice Braintrust: Securing Our Future - The Nuclear Alternative."

Sheila Jackson Lee: "Energy Braintrust: Combating the CHallenges of the Electrical Utility Industry and Climate Change."

James Clyburn: "Avoice Environmental Justice Forum."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sex & Drugs at the Minerals Management Service

According to an inspector general's report, employees of the U.S. Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service(MMS):

"frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relations with oil and gas company representatives."
The MMS oversees America's oil, natural gas and other mineral resources on the outer continental shelf and its duties include drawing up leases for drilling in offshore waters. Through the Royalty-In-Kind (RIK) Program, the government receives oil instead of cash payments from energy companies in exchange for drilling rights. The government then sells the product into the marketplace and returns the proceeds to the Treasury. Interior's MMS has been under scrutiny for years about mistakes that allowed oil companies to avoid paying royalties for offshore drilling rights, errors that government auditors have estimated will cost taxpayers as much as $10.5 billion over about 25 years.

AAEA is no foe of big oil. In fact we like big oil big time. We do not like the "culture of substance abuse and promiscuity" that insults the public trust. We are disturbed that such behavior happens, yet we believe many politicians, agencies, companies and individuals prefer such a corrupt system over a constructive plan for Reparations that would correct a horrific historical stain and utilize legitimate mechanisms for land leasing and resources royalties. (The Wall Street Journal 9/11/08)

AAEA Opposes Expanded Offshore Oil Drilling

We believe the threat to our oceans and coastal areas is too great a risk to allow for oil drilling off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and the gulf west of Florida. Moreover, there is no need to risk our invaluable ocean environments and beaches because there is plenty of oil from shale in the Rocky Mountains and from coal-to-liquids. As everyone acknowledges, America is the Saudi Arabia of coal. Now before the purists start barking, AAEA is promoting technology that can convert carbon dioxide from coal plants into gasoline [See CO2 to Gasoline].

However, if legislation is passed to expand offshore oil drilling, the Congressional Black Caucus should consider attaching a Reparations Amendment to the bill. The reparation should be in the form of federal land offerings of forty acres to eligible families, preferably in the oil shale and coal areas. Other lands could possibly be included through purchases by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. (More)

Created by Congress in 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) provides money to federal, state and local governments to purchase land, water and wetlands for the the benefit of all Americans. Land is bought from landowners at fair-market value (unless the owner chooses to offer the land as a donation or at a bargain price). The Fund receives money mostly from fees paid by companies drilling offshore for oil and gas. (USDA Forest Service)

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) disbursed more than $11.6 billion in revenue from royalties and leases in the 2007 fiscal year:
Recipient/ Disbursements (in milliions)

U.S. Treasury/ $6,715
State Share (onshore)/ 1,904
Reclamation Fund/ 1,470
Land & Water Conservation Fund/ 899
American Indian Tribes & Allottees/ 465
Historical Preservation Fund/ 150
State Share (offshore)/ 68

Note: Fiscal year ends Sept 30. Source: Interior Department, The Wall Street Journal, 9/11/08)

Friday, September 12, 2008

In Memoriam: Robert J. Knox

A Legend and Giant at EPA

Bob Knox was a friend and inspiration to AAEA as he was to many other institutions and people all over the country. It was always a pleasure to visit with Bob at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Bob made you feel welcome at EPA and he was always the consummate professional. He will be greatly missed by us and his unique insights and intelligence on behalf of the agency can never be replaced. Bob did not pursue the spotlight or even credit for his many accomplishments, but he was a dynamic force and a true hero. Again, we miss you Bob and we feel privileged to have known you.

Robert J. Knox was a founding Deputy Director and former Acting Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Justice(OEJ). Mr. Knox was an engineer by training and he began his career in Region 4 as a manpower development specialist working on water related issues. He moved to Region 2 where he led manpower and training programs.

In the early 1980s he served as the Director of the Office of Civil Rights. Thereafter, he was the Hazardous Waste Ombudsman for OSWER. When the Office of Environmental Justice was formed in 1992, he served as the founding Deputy Office Director with Dr. Clarice Gaylord, then OEJ Director. Bob spent his last 12 years in EPA working on community engagement activities. Bob retired from EPA in December 2004. In his retirement, he began taking coursework toward a masters degree from Howard University's School of Divinity. He was also a former deacon at the Gethsemane Baptist Church.

Former NRC Chair Shirley Jackson Will Advise Next President

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, right, was the Chairwoman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) during the Clinton Administration. Dr. Jackson announced a new energy plan for the next U.S. president and Congress at a National Press Club press conference this week. The strategy, known as the 100-Day Energy Action Plan, was developed by The Council on Competitiveness, a nonpartisan group of corporate, labor and university leaders. Jackson is vice chairwoman of the organization and co-chair of its Energy Security, Innovation and Sustainability Initiative.

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson is currently president of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She is a theoretical physicist and has been speaking about energy issues on a regular basis around the world and also sits on the boards of directors of Marathon Oil Corp. and Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., a large utility and power plant owner based in New Jersey that is better known as PSEG. (More)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Highway Trust Fund Bailout

Is the United States heading towards becoming a centralized socialist state? Any reasonable person would answer that question in the affirmative if you consider that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Highway Trust Fund have been bailed out in the same month. The House-passed the Highway Trust Fund bailout [H.R. 6532] on July 23, 2008 by a vote of 387 to 37. It passed in the Senate today (9/10/08) on a voice vote. Some Republicans complained during debate about the addition to the deficit, but other Republicans, who usually pray at the altar of the market, pushed for passage of the bail out. Interestingly some members of Congress have called for taking money from the mass transit portion of the trust fund to make up for the highway portion. The House rejected that proposal. The Highway Trust Fund is normally financed by taxes on gasoline. Since the public has been driving much less due to high gasoline prices, the Highway Trust Fund does not have adequate funds for state highway projects. So Congress passed a bailout of $8.5 billion to temporarily bailout the fund and President Bush will sign it real fast. The question before America though is will this be a continuing bailout? Clearly it will if states do not scale back highway construction projects and gasoline prices remain high.

The Highway Trust Fund pays for a percentage (sometimes as high as 85 percent) of state's highway construction projects. The U.S. Department of Transportation has already started curtailing how much and how often it reimburses states from the Highway Trust Fund. To remain solvent, it is projected that the trust fund needs an immediate $8.5 billion infusion from Congress. States have to wrestle with the potential fiscally irresponsible act of continuing to award projects when they are unsure if the federal government will reimburse them. The Bush administration dropped its opposition to the House bill and urged immediate approval. A significant number of jobs are at stake and it is an election year, yet America needs a policy that transcends election years politics and assures a dependable funding mechanism for proper construction and maintenance of our highway system. Yet some high ranking members of the Senate consider the bailout to be an unprecedented transfer of money from the general fund to the trust fund for highways. They believe that since the general fund has no surplus, such a transfer would mean borrowing the billions from future generations. The bottom line is that the federal government cannot keep bailing out everyone or soon we will be a centralized government like the old Soviet Union.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

International Nuclear Commerce Slipping Away From USA

Russia's invasion of Georgia is unraveling plans by Russia and the United States to promote the use of nuclear power in other countries. The Bush administration has already cancelled the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with Russia. These agreements between the U.S. and other countries are called '123 Agreements.' Section 123 of the United States Atomic Energy Act of 1954, titled "Cooperation With Other Nations," establishes an agreement for cooperation as a prerequisite for nuclear deals between the U.S. and any other nation. To date, the U.S. has entered into roughly twenty-five 123 Agreements with various countries.

It was only in May that President Bush sent the agreement to Congress for its approval. The deal would have meant billions of dollars in earnings for Russia for becoming the center of a nuclear reprocessing business of spent fuel from American-supplied reactors around the world. Of course, Russia can proceed to cooperate with other nations without us. The decision is probably due to Russia's invasion of Georgia and to emphasize the point, the State Department announced a $1 billion foreign aid package for the West-leaning Georgia. The cancellation hurts us too though because the U.S. does not reprocess spent nuclear fuel. The U.S. would need France or Russia in any deal involving reprocessing such fuel. America needs to start reprocessing spent nuclear waste in order to be competitive worldwide.

Russia and the USA would have been the principals in a program designed to provide nuclear fuel to other countries without risking proliferation of nuclear weapons. The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) proposes to expand the use of nuclear energy by developing a worldwide consensus on using this emission-free technology to meet growing electricity demand. It will achieve this objective by having nations with secure nuclear capabilities to provide potential partner nations with nuclear facilities, fresh fuel and recovery of used fuel for recycling. [More on GNEP]

Although a nuclear power plant building renaissance is pending in the United States, there is concern about the escalating cost of building plants here so any plant orders from overseas would be helpful to nuclear plant and equipment providers. It would also create thousands of badly needed jobs. India plans to import at least eight 1,000 megawatt power reactors by 2012. If American companies were to win contracts for just two reactors, thousands of jobs would be created in America. It is estimated that the nuclear deal could generate $100 billion in business over the next 10 years. India currently has 17 operating power reactors with seven under construction.

On August 1, 2008, the International Atomic Energy Agency approved the safeguards agreement with India, after which the United States approached the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to grant a waiver [because India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] to India to commence civilian nuclear trade. The 45-nation NSG granted the waiver to India on September 6, 2008 allowing it to access civilian nuclear technology and fuel from other countries. However, India can commence nuclear trade with the United States only after the deal is passed by the U.S. Congress where passage is currently pending. U.S. companies still need congressional approval before they can start bidding for contracts. French and Russian companies can start as soon as their governments sign a bilateral agreement with the Indian government. If Congress does not pass the India 123 Agreement, combined with the Bush administration cancellation of the Russia 123 Agreement, it will significantly hurt the goals of the GNEP. It will also hurt the nuclear industry because American nuclear companies will lose potential construction and equipment contracts in addition to jobs. France and Russia will be happy to step in and replace us in India. (The Economic Times, 8/9/08, Wiki, Wiki-123 Agreements)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Federal Government Bailout of Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac employees and other stockholders are the real victims of the collapse of these two behemoths. Of course, employees may only have themselves to blame if they put all of their faith in the companies and did not diversify their retirement stock portfolios. Our guess is that many did not because, from our intimate personal knowledge, the employees thought the companies were bullet proof. And why not when the stock was at $80 and there was always the implied backing of the federal government. Unfortunately, what they are learning the hard way is that the federal government was not backing their stocks. Now employees who were calculating their retirement based on stock bought at $10 and $20 and feeling great about it being $80, are now faced with holding worthless paper. Of course, other stockholders who did not get out in time will also take significant losses. The government might make some sort of arrangement for shareholders though during the takeover process. Regardless, it is a tragedy almost unbelievable in its swiftness and indescribable in its pain.

Federal officials have informed top executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that the government is placing the two companies under federal control. The plan places the companies into a conservatorship that operates like a pre-packaged bankruptcy. It is similar to plans used by small businesses to clean up their books and then they can emerge with stronger balance sheets. The executives and their boards are being replaced and shareholders have lost their stock value. The companies will still be allowed to continue with uninterrupted operation because the government is backing their debt. Fannie and Freddie are responsible for nearly 70 percent of new loans. This bailout has the potential to cost taxpayers trillions of dollars. It will clearly be the largest rescue in the nation’s history.

The debt securities Fannie and Freddie issue to finance their operations are owned by mutual funds, pension funds, foreign governments and big companies. The declines in the housing and financial markets forced the administration’s hand. Foreign governments had become increasingly cautious about holding billions of dollars in securities issued by the companies, particularly with no sign that their losses would abate any time soon. This situation combined with the inability of the companies to raise new capital, the administration apparently decided it would be better to act. Fannie and Freddie have about $5 trillion in debt outstanding that is being held by investors including Asian central banks. Payment of this debt is now guaranteed by the federal government. (The New York Times, 9/6/08)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Honda FCX Clarity Hydrogen Fuel Cell Plug-In Electric Hybrid

Finally, someone is producing the car we have been salivating over for a decade. The Honda FCX Clarity is a hydrogen fuel-cell lithium ion plug in electric car. Hydrogen gas from the car's fuel tank and oxygen in the air pass through membranes in the fuel cell, resulting in an electrochemical reaction that generates electricity to run the motor and produces water vapor as exhaust. A backup lithium-ion battery pack helps when more power is needed than the fuel cell is producing. About 200 go to consumers in the next three years. Most will be leased for $600 a month to Southern Californians who have other cars and live near one of three 24-hour public hydrogen stations. Each Clarity costs Honda some $200,000 to manufacture.

The test car's 61 miles per kilogram of hydrogen in suburban use equated to 62 miles per gallon of gasoline. Washington, D.C.'s only public hydrogen pump, a Shell station, charged $8.18 per kg. So, $8.18 for 61 miles in Clarity, vs. about $9.35 in a 24-mpg, four-cylinder Accord. Honda's developing a home-fill unit. It would hook to a residential natural gas line and produce hydrogen for your fuel-cell car, heat for your home's water and electricity for your house. Honda won't predict timing or price. Honda FCX Clarity:

• What? Limited-production, midsize, front-wheel-drive, four-door, four-passenger sedan powered by electricity from a hydrogen fuel cell backed up by lithium-ion battery pack.
• When? First was delivered July 25 in Southern California, where public hydrogen filling stations make a hydrogen car feasible.
• Where? Built at Tochigi, Japan.
• Why? To field-test production hydrogen cars in customers' hands.
• How much? Leased for $600 a month for three years.
• How many? About 200 the next three years, most in the U.S., a few in Japan.
• How potent? Electric motor is rated 134 horsepower, 189 pounds-feet of torque. Lithium-ion battery pack is rated 288 volts.
• What's missing? Power seats, sunroof, leather, auto on/off headlights. Otherwise loaded.
• How big? Four inches shorter than Honda Accord, about 200 lbs. heavier, otherwise similar. Clarity is 190.3 inches long, 72.7 in. wide, 57.8 in. tall on a 110.2-in. wheelbase. Weighs 3,582 lbs. Passenger volume is listed as 100.8 cubic feet.
Trunk: 13.1 cubic feet with under-floor storage well. Carries 700 pounds of people, cargo.
• How thirsty? Rated 77 miles per kilogram of hydrogen in town, 67 on the highway, 72 in combined driving. That equates to 79/68/74 mpg of gasoline, according to Honda.
Regular-production test car's trip computer showed 61 mpkg in suburban driving.
Tank holds 4.1 kg hydrogen compressed at 5,000 lbs. per square inch.
• Overall: System whines annoyingly. (USA TODAY, 9/5/08)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Senator Barack Obama and the Energy Policy Act of 2005


Senator John McCain has been criticizing Senator Barack Obama on his vote for the Energy Policy Act of 2005. McCain says it was a 'big oil' bill but it actually supports construction of the nuclear power plants that Senator McCain is aggressively promoting. The EPAct of 2005 is a great energy bill. In addition to oil and gas provisions, it has very good energy efficiency and renewable energy titles. It has very good vehicle and fuels, hydrogen, electricity, clean coal, and ethanol titles too. I also know it is a very good bill because I worked for its passage and was a special guest of the White House at the bill signing at Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico on August 8, 2005.

Senators McCain and Obama missed the vote on the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 because they were busy campaigning for the presidency. Both of these laws are very good. Do we need another energy bill to address additional problems? Sure we do. We need to renew the alternative energy tax incentives and pass complementary climate change legislation, among other things.

Senator McCain has led the fight in Congress to address global warming through the introduction of two bills over about a five year period. He introduced the Climate Stewardship Act of 2003 and the Climate Stewardship and
Innovation Act of 2005, both of which were cosponsored by Senator Joe Lieberman. Senator Obama was a cosponsor of the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2005 too. So even though it is the political season, McCain and Obama are actually pretty close on most energy and environmental issues. McCain plays it a bit closer to industry and Obama softens some of his stands to appease the tree huggers, but they are basically about as close to the same on these issues as a Republican and a Democrat can be. I would say that both are very good on energy, environment and global warming issues.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Global Warming, Climate Change & the Black Community

AAEA has been working directly on global warming and climate change issues for about a decade. Lately, other minority groups are addressing these very important issues. Two groups recently issued reports and one formed a commission to address the most important environmental issue facing the planet today.

The Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative (EJCC) produced a report entitled,“A Climate of Change: African Americans, Global Warming, and a Just Climate Policy in the U.S.,” which concluded that African-Americans are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The EJCC is a coalition of 27 U.S. environmental justice, climate justice, religious, policy, and advocacy networks representing millions of individuals who want a just and meaningful climate policy. Redefining Progress is the host and fiscal sponsor for EJCC.

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (JCPES) recently launched a project called the Commission to Engage African-Americans on Climate Change (CEAC). The JCPES released a survey of African-American attitudes on climate change and a background paper on “Global Warming and African Americans” describing the disproportionate impacts of climate change on African Americans.

Congressman James Clyburn referenced both reports when he spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to help launch the commission.

[Hat tip & source: LaShawn Barber's Corner and Andrew Hoerner, Director, Sustainable Economics Program, Redefining Progress]