For public consumption, Mitch Daniels wears a "conservative" hat, but as Indiana governor, he oversaw one of the largest intrusions of the public sector into the private sector ever, in any state.
In 2006, he was the first to promote the building of a new coal-to-gas plant in one of the most polluted towns in the nation, Rockport, Ind. At the time gas prices were running around $12 per thousand BTUs (MMBtu), and fear was gripping the nation that natural gas was nearing an end and the only salvation, climate change or not, was converting hydrogen and carbon elements in coal into synthetic gas (syngas) that could substitute for industrial fuel and residential home heating.
"I feel there are some strong elements in Sen. Lugar's bill but that it falls well short of the comprehensive plan that we really need to address climate change and to move the nation into a clean energy economy."
That's the message that Ron Burke asked people to convey to Senators Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) in the next few days when he spoke to an audience of about 25 on July 21 at Bloomington's Unitarian Universalist Church.
ROCKPORT, IND. -- Rex Winchell would satisfy just about any conceivable interpretation of the Hoosier colloquialism tough old bird. The 84-year-old Rockport citizen speaks proudly of the decade he spent in the military and working with military outfits in North America and Europe. When relating a story about an unpleasant conversation he recently had with a local public official, he says he's glad it was on the telephone and not in person.
"I probably would have spent a little time in the pokey," he says, "because I would have made a change in his face or some other portion of his anatomy."
Winchell is similarly blunt when talking about those who sanction and operate the 17 coal-fired power plants in what he calls Indiana's "Polluted Triangle," from Terre Haute to Tell City to Evansville and back to Terre Haute.
"If I walked out here on the streets of Rockport, Ind., and blew away as many as 15 people," he says, "... I'd end up either having my hide fried or a term of life in prison. But, to have people poison slowly the entire population of an area." His voice trails off at the notion.
ROCKPORT, IND. -- Crossing the Ohio River into Indiana from Owensboro, Ky., travelers are greeted with an image far more symbolic of Hoosier life than the tiny little "Indiana Welcomes You" sign that greets them now, or the billboards that dot Southwest Indiana highways featuring Abraham Lincoln, who spent part of his childhood just a few miles to the west of the William H. Natcher Bridge.
Indeed, the Hoosier state's howdy dominates the horizon a couple hazy miles before the bridge, when fat plumes of opaque-white air pollution from the Rockport Power Plant first appear. The coal-fired plant's twin cooling towers greet passing motorists with a hearty, "Welcome to Indiana, Land of Pollution." Minutes up U.S. 231, the box-like AK Steel plant rises just off the roadway to the east, adding an exclamation point to the greeting.
Between them, these two industrial facilities told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that they released nearly 26 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the air, water and land in 2008. In their Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reports to EPA, AK Steel reported 19.1 million pounds, American Electric Power's Rockport plant 6.7 million.
For we radical environmentalists, whose warnings and arguments have been ignored, maligned and ridiculed since the Reagan Revolution dawned three decades ago, the Gulf of Oil disaster evokes a wicked brew of emotions and attitudes.
On the one hand, we feel the pain and horror of the unfolding environmental disaster as acutely as those who occupy the bioregion. We radicals have spent our entire lives fighting to protect the wildlife and natural features of the Gulf and every other coast, shoreline, riverbed or stream bank, wherever they've been threatened, which is everywhere. Despite the ennui that comes from witnessing first-hand decades of unrelenting ecological degradation, we still feel the pinch every time a special place is lost.
We can't help but revel in the never-ending spew of vitriol and venom aimed at BP, one of the planet's most contemptible corporate polluters. We delight in watching the arrogance and hypocrisy of the drill-baby-drills and political pimps -- like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu from Louisiana, John Cornin from Texas and Lamar Alexander from Tennessee -- exposed with such laser-clear light.
Dennis Hopper died today falling, at the ripe old age of 74, to prostate cancer. Hopper, a protege' of Indiana's own James dean, burst into the public consciousness with this 1969 film Easy Rider, a film about a drug-financed journey across the country, from Los Angeles to New Orleans, to find an America that didn't exist.
1969 was a remarkable year in many ways. It was the year Led Zeppelin's first album, the year of Elvis' comeback, the year of Concorde, the year of the first manned landing on the moon, and a year of oil.
It was the year of the 1969 oil well blowout in the Santa Barbara Channel, just offshore from the Los Angeles departed by Easy Rider's protagonists in their search for a country that didn't exist. It was my first year as a young boy in Southern California.
"Peak oil" -- what is that? The concept has been discussed since 1949, when geologist M. King Hubbert theorized that the extraction of the black gold followed a simple bell curve, meaning that after passing the peak in the curve, extraction would decline. After peak, never again would we be able to extract, and use, as much oil as we had previously.
In 1956, Hubbert made a startling and controversial prediction: America's oil production would peak in or around 1970. Hubbert's peers were confounded, as it was inconceivable that the United States, the world's largest oil producer in the first half of the 20th century -- literally the "Saudi Arabia" of the West -- could possibly decline in production.
So Hubbert was ridiculed, that is, until soon after 1970, when it became obvious that U.S. production had indeed peaked that year. (Peaks in production, whether in individual oil fields or oil nations, or worldwide, are only recognizable in hindsight, by comparing production in subsequent years.)
Citizens Action Coalition
Two leading Indiana citizen/environmental groups -- Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana and Concerned Citizens of Scott County -- filed as joint interveners in Liberty Green Renewables Indiana LLC's request to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) for declination of jurisdiction.
Liberty Green is requesting that the Commission decline to exercise any jurisdiction over the construction, ownership or operation of, or any other activity in connection with, the Scottsburg Renewable Energy Center -- stating in the petition to the IURC that "encouragement of this type of facility by its declining to exercise jurisdiction over Petitioner will be beneficial to the State of Indiana."
In the request, Liberty Green LLC claims that the Scottsburg Renewable Energy Center will specifically generate electricity from woody biomass, a renewable, environmentally benign and energy efficient resource.
Consumer Federation of America
A new report from the Consumer Federation of America by Dr. Mark Cooper, "Building on the Success of Energy Efficiency Programs to Ensure an Affordable Energy Future," shows that federal energy efficiency policies can leverage real and largely untapped potential to save consumer's money and create a cleaner, healthier environment with lower carbon emissions.
This report also concludes that incorporating energy efficiency programs in federal climate and energy legislation would substantially reduce the cost for consumers.
It's time for the oldest and dirtiest power plants to clean up their act. Fossil fuel-fired giants have dominated our electricity for decades and have been allowed to pollute without license. In order to stop global warming and reap all the benefits of clean energy, we must require old clunker power plants to meet modern standards for cutting global warming pollution.
The Gibson Generating Station in Gibson County near the Wabash River is the dirtiest power plant in Indiana based on carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution, ranking as the fourth dirtiest plant in the country for 2007, according to a new analysis of government data released this month by Environment America.
Power plants currently do not have to meet any global warming pollution standard, meaning that they are unchecked contributors to global warming. In fact, power plants are the nation's single largest source of global warming pollution.