Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage.

The Tea Party Targets… Sustainable Development?

Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones
If you believe conservative activists, smart growth is really a global conspiracy to herd Americans into “human habitation zones.”

First, they took on the political establishment in Congress. Now, tea partiers have trained their sights on a new and insidious target: local planning and zoning commissions, which activists believe are carrying out a global conspiracy to trample American liberties and force citizens into Orwellian “human habitation zones.”

At the root of this plot is the admittedly sinister-sounding Agenda 21, an 18-year-old UN plan to encourage countries to consider the environmental impacts of human development. Tea partiers see Agenda 21 behind everything from a septic tank inspection law in Florida to a plan in Maine to reduce traffic on Route 1. The issue even flared up briefly during the midterms, when Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes accused his Democratic opponent of using a bike-sharing program to convert Denver into a “United Nations Community.”

Agenda 21 paranoia has swept the tea party scene, driving activists around the country to delve into the minutiae of local governance. And now that the midterm elections are over, they’re descending on planning meetings and transit debates, wielding PowerPoints about Agenda 21, and generally freaking out low-level bureaucrats with accusations about their roles in a supposed international conspiracy.
(18 November 2010)

Here’s where we should cut: corn ethanol subsidies

Rolf E. Westgard, Brainerd Daily Dispatch
On Nov. 2 we elected a new Congress which is pledged to make major cuts in federal government spending. One of its most tempting cost targets is the $6 billion subsidy for the 12.6 billion gallons of corn ethanol for 2011, mandated by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act(EISA).

Producing this ethanol will use 5 billion corn bushels, 40 percent of our total crop. It will require more than 30 million prime crop acres for 7 percent of our gasoline supply.

A University of Minnesota study led by Professor Sangwon Suh recently estimated that in the U.S. an average of 162 gallons of water are consumed to produce a gallon of ethanol from corn. Drier states with more irrigation use more water, with Kansas and Nebraska requiring 500 water gallons per ethanol gallon. Much of that water is drawn from the Ogallala Aquifer.

Also this November, The European Environmental Policy Institute reported that their Renewable Energy Directive for bioethanol is leading to twice as many “GHG emissions than meeting the same need through fossil fuel use.” This is primarily the result of indirect land use change which will cause an additional annual release of “between 44 and 77 million tonnes of CO2e” from now to 2020.

A 2008 study by Germany’s Max Planck Institute and the University of California’s Scripps Institute reported that the nitrogen fertilizers required by biofuel crops were releasing “enough nitrous oxide to cause climate warming instead of cooling.” The study was led by Nobel chemist Paul Crutzen. Some of the U.S. nitrogen ends up in the Mississippi, fostering those dead zones in the Delta and the Gulf.

Thirty years of subsidies have not made food for fuel competitive or useful. Here’s your chance, new Congress.
(19 November 2010)
Rolf Westgard is a longt-time EB contributor. -BA

Walmart local food?

Jim Hightower,
The signature phrase of America’s booming good food movement has been expanded from “organic” to “local and sustainable.”

Good! The phrase suggests great quality, strong environmental stewardship and a commitment to keeping our food dollars in the local economy. If you support the local-economies movement, as I do, no doubt you’ll be thrilled to hear that a new, local food store is coming soon to your neighborhood. In fact, it’s even named Neighborhood Market.

Only, it’s not. It’s a Wal-Mart. Yes, the $400-billion-a-year retail behemoth, with 2 million employees laboring in 8,500 stores spread around the globe, now is putting on a “local” mask. The giant is promising to buy 9 percent of the produce it’ll sell from local farmers. Big whoopie. This means that 91 percent of the foodstuffs offered in its “Neighborhood” chain will come from Wayawayland. Wal-Mart is to local what near beer is to beer. Near beer is not beer … and Wal-Mart is not local.

But even the 9 percent number is a deceit, for Wal-Mart says that it defines “local” as grown in the same state. Excuse me, but in California, Florida, Texas and other such sizable states, that can be a mighty long truck-haul away. Not exactly what us locals would call “local.”
(17 November 2010)

U.S. Oil Imports Shrink, Yet Worries Loom

Clifford Krauss, Green (blog), New York Times
Good news on the energy security front?

According to some October statistics released by the American Petroleum Institute, the United States imported 10.75 million barrels of oil a day last month, a decrease of 133,000 barrels a day from October 2009.

That decline may seem small, and indeed that is equivalent to only about one-eighth of what the country imports from Saudi Arabia every day. But from a security and economic point of view, some say that it’s a step in the right direction, particularly given that gasoline demand for the month was actually 0.6 percent higher than last October.

And it looks even better when you consider that imports from the Persian Gulf are declining by a faster rate than total imports. (Canada is the No. 1 source of imports, with Mexico coming in second.)

The reason the country can import less oil is that it is producing more domestically.
(19 November 2010)