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Bill Clinton joins Obama to champion Washington energy saving strategy

Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian
Bill Clinton came out with an assist for Barack Obama on his economic strategy on Friday, as the two men teamed up to launch an energy saving retrofit of government buildings and commercial properties.

The unusual joint appearance marked the second time in a month that Clinton, who presided over the boom times of the 1990s, has endorsed Obama’s management of the economy.

On Friday, the former president went even further saying that his Clinton Global Initiative had been pursuing the same strategy as Obama, betting that investment in a green economy would help haul America out of the recession.

“I believe as strongly as I can say that this is good business,” Clinton said at the launch. “It’s the nearest thing we have got to a free lunch in a tough economy.”

The programme announced on Friday calls for spending $4bn to overhaul the federal government’s enormous collection of office buildings over the next two years.

The changes would reduce energy use 20% by 2020.
(2 December 2011)

Obama’s Push for Better Mileage: This Is a Big Deal

Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times
IN many ways, President Obama has been a disappointment on energy and the environment. He has been completely missing in action on the climate debate. His decision to block his own Environmental Protection Agency from setting new rules to cut smog levels was disappointing. And, while I believe in using the balance sheet of the U.S. government to spur clean-tech research and start-ups, Solyndra was a case of embarrassing excess — precisely what happens when you rely too much on government push not consumer pull, spurred by price and regulatory signals.

He backed his great E.P.A. administrator, Lisa Jackson, and Department of Transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, in producing a deal with all the top U.S.-based automakers that will go into effect in 2017 and require annual mileage improvements of 5 percent for cars, and a little less for light trucks and S.U.V.’s, until 2025 — when U.S. automakers will have to reach a total fleet average of 54.5 miles per gallon. The current average is 27.5 m.p.g.

This deal will help America’s cars and trucks approach the mileage levels of Europe and Japan and spur innovation in power trains, aerodynamics, batteries, electric cars and steel and aluminum that will make cars lighter and safer.
(3 December 2011)

Report highlights Obama’s broken environmental promises

Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian
Barack Obama has been just as zealous as George Bush in stripping away environmental, health and safety protection at the behest of industry, it turns out.

Some environmental organisations were beginning to suspect this, after Obama over-ruled his scientific advisors and blocked stronger ozone standards. Now, a new report [pdf] from the Centre for Progressive Reform has dug up some key data revealing that the White House in the age of Obama has been just as receptive to the pleadings of industry lobbyists as it was in the Bush era. And it goes far beyond ozone.

Under Obama, a little known corner of the White House – known as the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, or Oira – has changed more than 80% of the rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

None of these were changes for the good, the report says.
(28 November 2011)

Spending the Middle Class out of existence

Hans Noeldner, Entropic Journal
The American middle class, in it’s relentless pursuit of imported and robot-manufactured bargains that cannot possibly sustain a American middle-class workforce, is systematically spending itself out of existence.

Naturally there are parties which profit greatly from this staggering exodus of money – international corporations, importers, financiers, and (of course!) their lackeys in government, media, and academia. And of course the American middle class is enormously fond of blaming this 1% elite.

But this misses an essential point: the flow of money from America’s middle class to America’s 1% is dwarfed by the flow of money from America’s shores. We may be party to the most devastating failure of any nation in history to recycle money amongst its citizenry.

Hence I believe it would be useful to think of America’s 1% as symptom rather than disease. What then is the disease? A pervasive failure to choose responsibility for employment and livelihoods. And this is not a failure of leadership; it is a failure of citizenship, for we-the-people have thus far been loath to heed any leader who seeks to offer us a reality-based vision of responsibility. Blaming a “them” is much easier. Here is the crux of it:

If the consumer has not the will to make common cause with the worker – specifically, the willingness to spend more in acquiring less when such transactions are necessary to ensure that the worker is able to earn sufficient wages to provide for his family – then no other force on Earth can protect labor. A poverty of self-governance is no foundation for a popularly-elected government to build the onerous restrictions on business and trade that would be needed.

Is there any delusion so cruel as imagining that reform of democracy – or worse, revolution – could compensate for so basic a failure of brotherhood? Perhaps yes: the belief that free markets among selfish men might yield a condition of virtue.

I believe it is Productivity which underlies our frantic embrace of the Growth Paradigm. Our economy is a titanic struggle between “save labor” and “consume to employ” – and humanity is losing. It is truly schizophrenic.

OK, now for a return to regularly-scheduled Progressive programming: Occupy Wherever, indignation at the Right, indignation at oil companies, indignation at Scott Walker, indulging expectations that President Obama can compel us to desire less Tar Sands gasoline, etc.

Hans Noeldner
Pedestrian/Bicycle/Transit/Sustainability Advocate
Facilitator, Madison Peak Oil Group
(3 December 2011)

Rotating blackouts possible in Texas this winter

Jack Z. Smith, Star-Telegram
Rotating blackouts like the ones that occurred during February’s cold snap are possible this winter if there is a “simultaneous occurrence of extreme weather and worst-case generation outages,” the leader of the state’s major power grid operator said Thursday.

The severe drought has resulted in “historically low levels” for reservoirs that provide cooling water for power plants that total more than 11,000 megawatts of generation capacity, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said.

That could result in “some portion of this generating capacity becoming unavailable during the winter,” crippling the power supply, ERCOT said. “Under extreme weather conditions, peak winter power demand could be approximately 60,000 megawatts,” CEO Trip Doggett said. But “available resources, based on above-normal generation outage rates, could dip to approximately 57,000 megawatts.”
(1 December 2011)