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United States - May 27

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State of Paralysis

Paul Krugman, New York Times
California, it has long been claimed, is where the future happens first. But is that still true? If it is, God help America.

The recession has hit the Golden State hard. The housing bubble was bigger there than almost anywhere else, and the bust has been bigger too. California’s unemployment rate, at 11 percent, is the fifth-highest in the nation. And the state’s revenues have suffered accordingly.

What’s really alarming about California, however, is the political system’s inability to rise to the occasion.

Despite the economic slump, despite irresponsible policies that have doubled the state’s debt burden since Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor, California has immense human and financial resources. It should not be in fiscal crisis; it should not be on the verge of cutting essential public services and denying health coverage to almost a million children. But it is — and you have to wonder if California’s political paralysis foreshadows the future of the nation as a whole.
(24 May 2009)




Natural Gas Politics

Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica
Four years after Vice President Dick Cheney spearheaded a massive energy bill that exempted natural gas drilling from federal clean water laws, Congress is having second thoughts about the environmental dangers posed by the burgeoning industry.

With growing evidence that the drilling can damage water supplies, Democratic leaders in Congress are circulating legislation that would repeal the extraordinary exemption and for the first time require companies to disclose all chemicals used in the key drilling process, called hydraulic fracturing [1].

The proposed legislation has already stirred sharp debate.
(26 May 2009)



US steelworkers form unlikely alliance as renewables reinvigorate rustbelt

Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian
Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania look to electric cars, solar and wind power after death of coal and steel industries
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It may seem like a stretch to call Jack Bernat, who spends his off-duty hours collecting and lovingly restoring muscle cars of the 1980s, an environmentalist.

But then trace back a working life spent chasing after the vanishing jobs in Pennsylvania's steel industry. In his 35 years in the workforce, Bernat endured lay-offs and shut-downs, scrambled for part-time and temporary work, and took jobs far from home.

Now the former steelworker is hoping he has at last found a job with a future, putting the finishing touches to the giant fibreglass blades for wind turbines produced by the Spanish firm, Gamesa.

"My biggest concern is not to have happening to this generation what happened to mine — where you end up 10 years here, 10 years there, and then you are like me 54 years old, and five different careers and no seniority anywhere," said Bernat, who heads the chapter of the United Steelworkers of America union at the wind turbine plant. "I want to see the longevity of this thing."

Those hopes provide a powerful impetus for an alliance between the environmental and labour movements that could prove critical to the course of Barack Obama's hopes to transform America's energy economy.
(26 May 2009)




America's new green guru sparks anger over climate change U-turns

Robin McKie and Ed Helmore, The Observer
President Obama's energy secretary, Nobel prize-winner Steven Chu, arrives in Europe this week to discuss global warming. But his recent policy decisions on coal-fired power stations and hydrogen cars have angered many environmentalists
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... The arrival of Chu, himself a physics Nobel laureate, comes as the scientist-turned-politician finds himself attacked by environmentalists over decisions he has made about America's campaign to fight global warming. Green groups have accused him of being "contradictory and illogical" and of failing to demonstrate sufficient dynamism in establishing a new, low-carbon approach to transport and power-generation in the United States.

In recent weeks, Chu - who was appointed energy secretary by Barack Obama in December - has revealed that he is no longer willing to block the construction of new coal-powered electricity plants in the US, despite widespread opposition from green groups and having initially said that he would not permit their construction.
(24 May 2009)
Related at the Guardian: White roofs and 'cool' cars - Obama's US energy secretary gives Prince Charles tips on tackling climate change.

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