Ben Buchwalter

Ken Salazar’s Cape Wind Dilemma
February 17, 2010, 10:58 pm
Filed under:, energy, Environment | Tags: , , , , ,

That’s some unique NIMBYism. The Cape Wind project, a proposed renewable energy facility off of Massachusetts’ Nantucket Sound, hit an unusual snag when the Mashpee and Wampanoag Native Americans opposed the site because it blocked their view of the sunrise, an important part of a daily ritual. The facility, which was also opposed by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) and the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, presents an important dilemma for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. I summed up the dilemma for

Setting aside the merits and drawbacks of Cape Wind, killing the project would be a major victory for NIMBY politics over clean renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Sure, it’s easy to support renewable energy in the abstract. But when your sunrise or porch’s mountainous view is obstructed by a hulking white wind mill? Forget about it, some say. But spiking Cape Wind would not eliminate the NIMBY headache that has plagued the project since its inception. It would only add fire to anti-wind movements at other proposed locations.

Secretary Salazar has asked for a final round of public comments to help parse that complexity. But depending on what he decides in April, Cape Wind will either be a historic victory for wind power, or put wind in the sails of NIMBY-ists everywhere.


Will Brazil’s New Dam Displace Indigenous People?
February 17, 2010, 10:44 pm
Filed under: energy, Environment, Mother Jones | Tags: , ,

Earlier this month, the Brazilian government announced that it would move forward with the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the Amazon. Current estimates indicate that the dam will flood 100 square miles of Brazil’s rain forest and cost $17 billion. But critics, including pop star Sting, have warned that the dam could have an even larger negative impact on the area:

Some anti-dam activists have worried that, in addition to harming their forests, the project could displace indigenous populations. Minc rejects these concerns. “Not a single Indian will be displaced,” he said. “They will be indirectly affected, but they will not have to leave indigenous lands.”

The claim sounds reassuring, but it’s difficult to take at face value since the Brazilian government has made a practice of moving indigenous people off their land in the name of conservation. As Mark Schapiro reports for Mother Jones, the Brazilian “green police” is feared for displacing the Guarani Indians as part of their conservation strategy in the Guaraquecaba Environmental Protection Area, a 50,000 acre rain forest funded by General Motors, Chevron, and American Electric Power.

Pentagon Pushes for Climate Action
February 17, 2010, 8:58 pm
Filed under:, Environment, Military | Tags: , ,

Earlier this month, the Pentagon released a report warning that climate change would threaten more than just our coast lines if Congress did not act quickly to delay or reverse environmental degradation. Climate change could even put American troops serving abroad at risk. The announcement seems surprising, but it’s consistent with two decades of military dogma on the environment that was largely ignored by the Bush administration. I broke down the unrequited friendship between the earth and the military for

Good working relationships between the Pentagon and concerned climate scientists dates back to the early years of the Clinton administration, which implemented a program that urges the DOD to share classified satellite photographs of the Arctic Ocean with climate scientists.

In 1992, then-Senator Al Gore floated the idea with representatives from George H. W. Bush’s CIA and DOD, and as vice-president, he implemented the program along with Leon Panetta — Clinton’s chief of staff at the time — and departing CIA director Robert Gates. Bush II disbanded the program in 2001 but the New York Times reported earlier this year that the Obama administration plans to resurrect it.  “Decision makers need information and analysis on the effects climate change can have on security,” said CIA Director Panetta in a press release when the agency opened a center on climate change and national security last fall. “The CIA is well positioned to deliver that intelligence.”

Energy Scientists: Nuclear Loan Increase is Bad Policy
February 17, 2010, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Barack Obama, Environment, Mother Jones | Tags: , , ,

No one can say that economists, environmentalists, and energy scientists have not warned the Obama administration about the dangers of expanding nuclear energy. After the administration announced that it planned to triple the amount of nuclear loan guarantees for nuclear projects, I posted a roundup at MoJo. Here’s an excerpt:

David Kreutzer, an energy economic and climate change analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation wrote in a blog post for the National Journal that increasing the loan guarantees “is a bad idea for taxpayers, consumers and long-term industry competitiveness” because it would “stifle competition and technological development within the nuclear energy industry.”

And in a particularly damning blow to nuclear interests, Dr. Mark Cooper, an energy and environment economist at Vermont Law School wrote a report (pdf) last summer predicting that the cost of 100 new reactors could cost up to $4.1 trillion and that a combination of increased energy efficiency and cleaner renewable energy options would produce the same level of electricity.

Is Renewable Energy Headed for a Nuclear Wedgie?
February 17, 2010, 8:40 pm
Filed under:, Congress, Environment | Tags: , , ,

In January, I started blogging for’s environment page. In my first post, I wrote about the strain expanding our nuclear program will place on the prospects for a comprehensive renewable energy system in the US. Despite almost universal acknowledgement in the environmental community that nuclear power is dirty, obstructive, and less efficient than its proponents suggest, Congress plans to flood the industry with billions in loan guarantees in order to get a climate bill passed. We’re already starting to see the results of this renewed commitment to nuclear power:

The result? The proposal of new nuclear plant in California, once a hotbed for anti-nuclear activism. In 2006, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a global warming bill that requires the state to increase renewable energy production 30 percent by 2020 and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. Nuclear critics didn’t expect is that those goals could lead the state to go nuclear.

“When you look at the need to cut carbon emissions, and California is in the lead in that department, you have to consider nuclear power,” says a spokesman for Areva, the French utilities company that proposed the California plant.

US To Appeal Blackwater Ruling. Then What?
February 17, 2010, 8:31 pm
Filed under: Foreign Affairs, Scandals | Tags: , , ,

In 2007, guards employed by the independent security contractor Blackwater Worldwide killed 17 civilians in Iraq’s Nisour Square. Nearly three years later, Blackwater continues to operate in Iraq in a diminished capacity (and under the new name Xe Services). Last month, Iraqis were outraged when a district court judge dismissed charges against the guards because the State Department bungled the case against them. But at the end of January, Vice President Joe Biden said that the White House intends to appeal that decision and hold the guards accountable. This is a great step forward to ensure that security contractors acting under the American flag don’t get away with murder. But we’ve still got a long way to go, as I wrote for MoJo:

Demanding full accountability for security contractors will take more than cracking down on the five guards connected to Nisour Square. It means implementing comprehensive regulations and laws for all contractors working under the American banner. Last July, the DOD adopted interim rules to govern the selection and oversight of security contractors abroad. Whether or not the Justice Department resurrects its case against the Blackwater guards, these rules should be strengthened to include clear guidelines for prosecuting private contractors in order to prevent future Nisour Square incidents.

“Patriot” Hero Charles Dyer Goes Down
February 17, 2010, 8:03 pm
Filed under: Crime and Justice, Mother Jones, Scandals | Tags: , ,

The Tea Party movement has produced its share of interesting characters. Chief among them is Charles Dyer, who’s YouTube videos (codename: july4patriot) have made the ex-Marine a hero of the anti-government extremists who say they will fight back against the US government if it threatens the right to bear arms or declares Martial law. Dyer’s die hard supporters were shocked last month when he was arrested on child rape and illegal weapons charges. So shocked, in fact, that they have said that he was set up by the US government. They call him “the 1st POW of the 2nd American revolution” due to his flagrant statements against the Department of Homeland Security and American leadership:

Dyer was already a notorious figure. As an active-duty sergeant in the Marine Corps, he posted incendiary videos on YouTube under the handle July4Patriot. Clad in a skull mask, he warned of grave threats to the republic and called for armed resistance against the American government. In one clip, referring to an April 2009 Department of Homeland Security report (pdf) on domestic extremism, Dyer exclaimed, “With DHS blatantly calling patriots, veterans, and constitutionalists a threat, all that I have to say is you’’re damn right we’re a threat. We’re a threat to anyone that endangers our rights and the Constitution of this republic.” He invited viewers to join him at his makeshift training area—”I’m sure the DHS will call it a terrorist training camp.”

Dyer will face trial in April, and depending on the outcome, this could be yet another call to arms for the increasingly militant Tea Party movement.