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Biden on energy and the environment

Amanda Griscom Little, Grist
Joe Biden says his top priority as president would be “energy security.” “If I could wave a wand, and the Lord said I could solve one problem, I would solve the energy crisis,” he said this spring at a political rally in South Carolina. “That’s the single most consequential problem we can solve.”

During his 34-year Senate career, Biden, now chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, has been known more as a chieftain of foreign policy than a champion of environmental protections (though he has earned a respectable 84 percent lifetime voting score from the League of Conservation Voters). These days, he’s emphasizing how closely geopolitics and environmental stewardship are intertwined. To solve what he sees as the defining challenge of our time, Biden has been pushing for more U.S. involvement in international climate negotiations, more compact fluorescent light bulbs, more-stringent fuel-economy regs, and a whole lot more biofuels.

How well will Biden be able to balance his energy-independence goals with an ambitious climate agenda? I tracked him down on the campaign trail in Iowa to find out.

Part of a series of interviews with presidential candidates produced jointly by Grist and Outside
(29 August 2007)

Heat stressing California’s power grid

Associated Press
No blackouts, at least for now, but electricity demand could set record

Scorching temperatures across California created a near-record demand for electricity Wednesday, drawing down the state’s energy reserves and prompting officials to urge residents to restrict their use of appliances.

With Californians seeking relief via air conditioners, pools and sprinklers, the state’s electricity grid manager declared a Stage 1 emergency, the first of three steps preceding rolling blackouts, in which power is cut to certain regions to avoid a systemwide crash.

…For a second straight day, energy demand surged 1,000 megawatts above forecasts, according to the independent system operator. If that trend continues Thursday, California would set a new all-time record for energy demand and come close to using all the available electricity resources that are forecast for the state.
(30 August 2007)

Asians, Hispanics live longest in California

Javier Erik Olvera, San Jose Mercury News
Countering popular perception, a study released Wednesday shows that Asians and Hispanics in California live longer than whites and blacks.

The findings show that Asian men and women outlive whites by about five years, and Hispanic men outlive white men by two years. The disparity between Hispanic women and white women is even greater at three years.

These are among the most surprising discoveries in the Public Policy Institute of California study that analyzed death certificates, comparing the causes of death among the state’s largest ethnic and racial groups.

The findings shocked health care experts, who said they dispel beliefs that diseases – such as cirrhosis and diabetes – lead to earlier deaths among Asians and Hispanics, who make up 12 percent and 35 percent of the state’s population, respectively.

…studies show newer immigrants are healthier when they come into the country, enjoying the benefits of eating their native foods and walking often.

Wu thinks that they develop bad habits when they come into America. This is commonly known as the “immigrant paradox.” People become accustomed to a Western diet, high in fat and sugar. They also often exercise less in America.

Lupe Alonzo-Diaz, executive director of the Latino Coalition for Healthy California, also said studies show Latino children are born with fewer illnesses than other ethnicities.

It isn’t until they get older that they learn bad habits that often lead to diabetes, obesity and other health problems.
(30 August 2007)

Porter ties U.S. withdrawal from Iraq to $9 gasoline

Tony Batt, Las Vegas Review Journal
Gasoline prices could rise to about $9 per gallon if the United States withdraws troops from Iraq prematurely, Rep. Jon Porter said he was told on a trip to Iraq that ended this week.

The Nevada Republican, who returned Tuesday from his fourth trip to Iraq, met with U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Iraqi Deputy President Tariq al-Hashimi and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh.

“To a person, they said there would be genocide, gas prices in the U.S. would rise to eight or nine dollars a gallon, al-Qaida would continue its expansion, and Iran would take over that portion of the world if we leave,” Porter said Wednesday in a phone interview from Las Vegas.

Porter did not elaborate on the assessment that gasoline prices could spike. His spokesman, Matt Leffingwell, said afterward that the scenario “makes sense if Iran moves into Iraq.”
(30 August 2007)

Monetary Policy and Weaseling Out of Debt

Gail the Actuary and Shunyata, The Oil Drum
This is some correspondence between me and an an individual known here as Shunyata. Shunyata is an individual who is involved with managing financial derivatives. Shunyata’s education and careers have spanned several disciplines, including actuarial science, statistics, mechanical engineering, and financial engineering. These have given him a breadth of perspective on the world’s financial situation.

… Dear Gail,

At the risk of sharing too much opinion, I will speak frankly about my perspective. Of course these are entirely my PERSONAL opinions.

The current prosperity of the US is the same prosperity seen in a person with a large home loan, a large car loan, and a mountain of credit card debt. He’s living lavishly and living at the mercy of his creditors. The US is VERY affluent and has a LOT of debt. And taking the Machiavellian view, the US likes spending other people’s money and has no wish balance its accounts if it can borrow without genuinely repaying.

…The net impact is that the dollar has been hemmoraging furiously for the last year or so. The US and Canadian dollars are virtually one-to-one now! So far this has been an orderly and tame development. But the currency markets are wanton and can move catastrophically with lightning speed. And if our currency collapses we will have no time to even think of a response. Instantly we will lose all global purchasing power and all ability to borrow.

If we are running out of resource endowments and we can’t inflate our way out of debt, our only recourse is to tighten our belt and divert our productivity from leisure (and hopefully not subsistence as well) and apply it to debt repayment. I fear interesting times lie ahead.
(28 August 2007)
Clear explanations. -BA