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Electricity Grid in U.S. Penetrated By Spies

Siobhan Gorman, Wall Street Journal
Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials.

The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, these officials said, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls. The intruders haven’t sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure, but officials warned they could try during a crisis or war.

“The Chinese have attempted to map our infrastructure, such as the electrical grid,” said a senior intelligence official. “So have the Russians.”…
(8 April 2009)
See China and Russia v. the US Grid! for another view on this story.

White House May Postpone Auctioning Emissions

Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post
The Obama administration might agree to postpone auctioning off 100 percent of emissions allowances under a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas pollution, White House science adviser John P. Holdren said today, a move that would please electricity providers and manufacturers but could anger environmentalists.
(8 April 2009)

Reconciliation For Carbon Emissions?

Asher Miller, Post Carbon Institute
There’s been a lot of news in recent weeks about a legislative method in the US Senate—ironically called “reconciliation”—that would allow a contentious budget bill to be considered without providing opponents with the opportunity to filibuster. The House of Representatives recently passed a budget bill that called for reconciliation on health care and carbon Cap & Trade, even though it’s only a method used by the Senate.

When the House originally passed their version of the bill, there was great consternation on the part of Republicans, despite the fact that they had no issue using reconciliation just a few years ago when they held majorities in Congress. Meanwhile, Democratic Party leaders who had spoken with great rage about the practice back when Republicans tried to steamroll tax cut legislation back in 2005 were surprisingly silent this time around. Go figure.

… Honestly, I have mixed feelings about all this. On the one hand, if Congress is going to use means like reconciliation to get legislation passed, why not go for putting a price on carbon? What’s more important than reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions? After all, it’s also a health issue.

To be sure, some (though not nearly enough) of the revenue generated through Cap & Trade would be used for investment in clean energy technology. On the other hand, I’m not a big fan of Cap & Trade because the devil’s in the details. Some of the biggies are giving away initial permits for free and plans to provide an allowance for certain industries, like steel, glass, and paper.

I think many environmental organizations have come out in favor of Cap & Trade because they believe it would be more politically feasible. But if Republicans are already calling Cap & Trade an “energy tax,” others are asking, why not go for the real thing?
(7 April 2009)

Mayor Gregor Robertson lends support to UBC Farm, flags peak oil

Matthew Burrows, blog, Georgia Straight
Mayor Gregor Robertson again touched on peak oil as an issue when he recorded a video address in support of the UBC Farm.

“In a world with peak oil and accelerating climate change, the importance of local food security has never been greater,” Robertson said in the video shown to farm supporters April 7. “We’ve seen entire civilizations wiped out because of a lack of food security, and it’s going to be really critical in this next phase of human existence that we value the land, the soil, and the people that look after and grow our food. And we’ve got to ensure, particularly in an urban setting, that we’re focused on a good solid locally-based food system. UBC Farm is a critical piece of that.”

Friends of the UBC Farm had just led a successful Great Farm Trek from the Student Union Building to the 24-hectare farm that afternoon. Supporters had just spent months encouraging university governors to remove the site from the community planning process. This has increased the likelihood that the farm will be saved.

“A special shout-out to the UBC board of governors for taking the steps to protect the farm,” Robertson said. “We need to keep making progress on that and make sure that this farm is protected for good.”

This echoed Friends of the UBC Farm spokesperson Andrew Rushmere’s comments to the Straight last week. Rushmere said there are five criteria that will help save the farm unequivocally: land security; recognition that the farm fits within the framework of a “sustainable university”; guaranteed long-term funding for the farm; ecological integrity in decision-making around the farm; and community-driven decisions on the life of the farm.
(8 April 2009)

Former Oilsands Exec Named Head of Climate Working Group

Glen McGregor, The Ottawa Citizen (Canada)
The Harper government has named a former oil and gas industry executive who led a company active in the Alberta oilsands as a representative on a U.S.-Canada working group on clean energy.

Charlie Fischer, who until recently served as president and chief executive officer of Calgary-based Nexen Inc., will head up one of three working groups with American counterparts as part of the Clean Energy Dialogue, Environment Minister Jim Prentice has confirmed.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to set up the working groups after a meeting in Ottawa with U.S. President Barack Obama, promising that the two countries would cooperate on developing new ways to combat climate change.

But only last week, in a response to a question in the House of Commons from a Liberal MP, did the government reveal who would serve as Canadian “envoys” on the groups.

The Sierra Club of Canada says the choice of an oil industry executive as a clean energy envoy undermines the credibility of the effort.
(8 April 2009)