United States - May 21
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How to follow the fossil fuel money on Capitol Hill
Kevin Grandia, Guardian
It is not easy to untangle the web of information available on which lobbyists are trying to influence who, but it can be done
In Washington, DC there is arguably nobody more influential than the lobbyists that troll the halls of Congress and backrooms, looking to influence the decisions of key politicians and staffers in favour of their clients.
The Guardian recently ran an investigative piece finding that America's oil, gas and coal industry "has increased its lobbying budget by 50%, with key players spending $44.5m in the first three months of this year in an intense effort to cut off support for Barack Obama's plan to build a clean energy economy."
As the head researcher for DeSmogBlog.com, a project that for more than three years now has been tracking the money behind those who continue to impede strong US climate change policy, myself and our team have become very skilled at locating the dollars flowing in and around Washington. By exposing the money, we can expose the vested interests and in turn we can show in a compelling way the disingenuous campaigns that are working behind the scenes to oppose and delay real action on climate change.
I wanted to share with you the tools we use to track down the lobbying dollars in the hopes that it will inspire others to do the same. The goal is to find the numbers and the key players and then put all this information in context.
(15 May 2009)
US Energy Use a National Security Threat: Study
Agence France Presse via Common Dreams
US dependence on fossil fuels and a vulnerable electric grid pose a perilous threat to the country's national security, retired military officers warned Monday in a report.
The threat requires urgent action and the Defense Department should lead the way in transforming America's energy use by aggressively pursuing efficiency measures and renewable sources, said the report by CNA, a nonprofit research group.
"Our dependence on foreign oil reduces our international leverage, places our troops in dangerous global regions, funds nations and individuals who wish us harm, and weakens our economy," it said.
"The market for fossil fuels will be shaped by finite supplies and increasing demand. Continuing our heavy reliance on these fuels is a security risk," said the report titled "Powering America's Defense: Energy and the Risks to National Security."
The authors, top ranked retired officers from the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, also point to the strained domestic electricity network as a possible hazard for US military bases.
(19 May 2009)
Kunstler: Bad Collateral
James Howard Kunstler, blog
The wishes of the "green shoots and mustard seed" crowd really hinge on whether the various organs of the suburban economy can be jump-started back to life -- the production home-builders, the granite countertop outfitters, the mall and strip-mall gang, the national chain discount retailers, all the people who make Happy Motoring possible from the factory to the showroom, and, of course, the banks who shovel money into these enterprises.
All these organs of our now-former economy are gravely impaired, and a realistic appraisal of them would have to conclude that they've entered the zone of congestive failure. The choice we face really comes down to this: do we put our dwindling resources and "hopes" into resuscitating those dying systems, or do we move forward to the next chapter of American life, cut our losses, and make new arrangements more consistent with the realities on offer from the universe? To take it a step further, can we remain one nation, a common culture, without such a conscious re-purposing of our collective spirit?
The bizarre spectacle being played out right now by President Obama and his team only adds layers of mystery and mystification to this big question.
(18 May 2009)
Vintage Kunstler. -BA
America goes on furlough
Beth Kowitt, Fortune via CNN Money
Summer is prime time for 'temporary layoffs,' and they're happening in some unexpected places
Welcome to the summer of the furlough. Manufacturing workers have long suffered from these "temporary layoffs," but the white-collar world is feeling them now, too: During this recession, everyone from universities to technology companies are using furloughs as a way to cut payroll without further trimming their staffs.
And while furloughs are already underway around the nation, human resources specialists say that required unpaid days off are only going to heat up as we head into the summer months, when employees are more amenable to time off -- albeit unpaid.
"Companies have done the huge surgery in terms of offering reductions in forced and involuntary ways," says Fred Crandall with consulting firm Watson Wyatt. Now they're using furloughs as microsurgery, and trying to be as minimally invasive as they can.
(20 May 2009)