Friday, May 23, 2008

Farm bill flawed, but somewhat better

I was pretty indignant the other day when this year's farm bill went through Congress with veto-proof majorities. I was in the rare position of actually agreeing with President Bush that it's a bad bill that continues to help rich corporate entities more than family farms whose survival is threatened. I particularly disliked the continued, though smaller, subsidy for grain ethanol production. From the environmental community, though, I found a rather favorable report on the bill. See what you think, and comment, please.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Talk as prelude to triumph

An oped column in today's New York Times implicitly defends President Bush's insinuation that Barack Obama, is his openness to meeting America's adversaries at the conference table, is an appeaser. Nathan Thrall and Jesse James Wilkins cite the one-sided discussion that John Kennedy walked into by meeting with Nikita Khruschev in June 1961. In my view, though, they make a case against going to the table unprepared -- quite a different thing from whether to talk or not. See what you think, at Kennedy Talked, Khrushchev Triumphed.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Stopping urban sprawl to curb greenhouse gases

An environmental engineer at the University of Minnesota makes a good case that our spread-out, thinly populated suburbs are a major contributor to the carbon dioxide emissions that are blamed for global warming. Julian D. Marshall writes:
Compact urban form can cut on-road gasoline emissions, the largest segment (62%) of transportation CO2 in the United States. The transportation sector is the largest emitter (33%) of CO2, outpacing the residential, industrial, and commercial sectors. (Electricity generation, when totaled for all sectors, accounts for 41% of CO2 emissions.) Records of automobile usage (Figure 1) show an inverse relationship between population density and per capita daily vehicle-kilometers traveled (VKT) (4, 9).
You can read the rest in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Press freedom is a human right

May 3 is World Press Freedom Day

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Gas-tax cut not smart, not green

When I first heard someone suggest a summer holiday from the gas tax, I thought it was a lame attempt to placate those famous Orlando parking lots that pass as tourist attractions. Now Sens. Clinton and McCain are running with the idea, and I can't shrug it off.

Cutting the gas tax might be good for politicians but it would not be good for the country. Cutting the tax would encourage more driving just when some Americans are beginning to learn how to drive less. It's clear we need to drive less -- to ease our thirst for imported fuel, to lessen the greenhouse gases we throw into the air, to remake our cities as clusters of livable neighborhoods where job, home, school and play fit comfortably close together.

Now we learn from the Washington Post that some serious economists don't believe a gas-tax cut would even lower the price of fuel as the politicians claim it would. Students of the law of supply and demand have noticed that when something is scarce, and the tax on it is removed, suppliers simply raise the price back to about where it was with the tax included. You know how the pols scold big oil for its big profits? Well, a gas-tax cut would invite them back to the table for a second helping out of your purse and mine.

I'd rather the states and federal government kept collecting the tax, and used it not for more roads but for the energy-saving public transportation our cities need. That, in the long run, would be good for the country. What we need in the short run is personal sacrifice -- car-pooling and vacations close to home -- and less election-inspired foolery.

Here's another lame idea that's not much better than Clinton's and McCain's. Some Florida Republicans propose a tax break for commuters who drive. What, do those folks not read the newspaper? Driving is the problem, not the solution.