Clean Coal Project Collapses  

Posted by Big Gav in

Nigel Wilson at The Australian reports that Queensland's ZeroGen clean coal project has collapsed as it is not commercially viable, prompting vituperation between state and federal vassals of the coal industry (while I'm not fan of MacFarlane I doubt he is on drugs as Premier Beattie suggested).

WHAT'S claimed to be Australia's most advanced clean coal project is unlikely to receive federal funding because it cannot attract sufficient commercial backing. Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane said yesterday that the ZeroGen project in Queensland had collapsed, sparking a row with Queensland Premier Peter Beattie, who accused Mr Macfarlane of being on drugs.

But the federal Minister stuck to his guns, saying Mr Beattie was well aware of ZeroGen's deficiencies and he was seeking support for alternative clean coal projects. ... ZeroGen, in which Shell has an option to take up 10 per cent equity, was taken over by the Queensland Government in March when Mr Beattie threatened to place a levy on coal producers to encourage clean coal projects.

It is understood that despite the federal Government investing $70 million in clean coal projects, ZeroGen failed the criteria required for grants under the Low Emissions Technology Development Fund. Essentially, ZeroGen has been unable to convince federal bureaucrats that its proposal to produce syngas from coal and sequester carbon dioxide in the Northern Denison Trough near Emerald has a commercial future. The project has been heavily promoted at international carbon sequestration conferences supported by the federal Government.

While clean coal is doomed to failure, The Age reports that the Rodent and his minions are still considering how to make us adopt nuclear power.
THE Federal Government is seeking legal advice on whether it can force the states to allow the construction of nuclear facilities, including power stations, inside their borders. In the wake of Prime Minister John Howard's recent statements supporting nuclear power, a Resources Department official, Tania Constable, has confirmed that legal advice has been sought on whether Canberra could override state laws to introduce it.

Her admission could intensify the nuclear debate in the lead-up to this year's federal election, with Labor and the states having already flatly rejected Mr Howard's push for nuclear power as a possible option to counter global warming. Victoria is one of several states that have laws designed to prevent the establishment of nuclear power stations. A Bracks Government spokeswoman said last night that if Canberra tried to force nuclear power on Victoria, it would have a fight on its hands.

A spokesman for Mr Howard last night referred The Age to comments made previously by him and Resources and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane that nuclear power would not be forced on the states.

But Federal Opposition environment spokesman Peter Garrett said the states should be extremely concerned about Ms Constable's admission, particularly if the Government was already considering weakening laws governing nuclear matters. Mr Garrett said that along with forcing the establishment of a nuclear power industry, the Commonwealth could override state laws designed to prevent or control the transportation or storage of nuclear materials.

The Age reports that the flustered Rodent may be going crazy as he finds himself hemmed in by his own disastrous policies on global warming and Iraq. The Daily Flute has an entertaining list of possible coalition victims at next election if current poll results hold.

Howard, even when in full attack mode, usually keeps a degree of measure in his rhetoric. Yesterday he simply let rip with every insult he could muster against Kevin Rudd, accusing him of everything from being puffed up to thuggish behaviour.
Perhaps the most revealing line was his observation that Rudd was feeling "very much cock of the walk", adding: "I understand why he might behave like that." Howard, the latest 20-point poll gap in mind, acknowledged that Rudd has the upper hand while reminding him there was a "long way to go" before the election.

Howard had got himself into an absurd and unnecessary position by trying to deny the existence of planned climate change advertising on the ground it does not exist until it gets the ministerial tick. He simply sounds devious, stubborn and slightly crazy. He has, over several parliamentary days created a bigger problem than he needed to have. Despite the criticism over the advertising, it would have been better to answer Opposition questions by saying: "Yes, your whistleblower has given you the bones of our campaign, and we think it will be a good one." Or some such.

Then there was the odd, if understandable, switch of tack in the party room. One week he's telling MPs they face annihilation, the next he is keeping their chins up by saying it's important to maintain "a positive sense of self-belief". It sounds like he feels he went a bit far with that "wake up" call.

All this scattiness has come before Howard has to face the music when he releases an emissions trading decision soon. The signs yesterday were that it will not have targets. That risks the approach being condemned as mickey mouse.

If it is, all the advertising, all yesterday's lashing out at Sir Nicholas Stern will do him little good. This is a big issue and the PM has a challenging fight ahead to convince people that the Government is fair dinkum about it. Yesterday's performance would give his troops little confidence that he's up to winning on this issue.

Energy Bulletin has a good roundup of climate related news, including "Kookaburra in the Coal Mine" from TruthOut.
A recent trip to Australia to cover a conference on agrichar allowed me to see the Australian drought crisis on the ground and talk to a few Australians about their thoughts on climate change. Agrichar is an agricultural technique that sequesters carbon, see Birth of a New Wedge.

The conference took place in Terrigal, New South Wales, a beach town just north of Sydney. Out on the blue horizon, I could see an endless train of coal ships headed for the booming economies of Asia. Coal is Australia's No. 1 export and a mainstay of the economy. But at the same time, as a major contributor to global warming, it is undermining almost every other source of wealth in the country.

A few days after I arrived, Prime Minister John Howard suggested a solution for the multi-year drought that is shriveling Australia's farmland: "Pray for rain," he said. Only a superabundance of rain can head off the government's plans to cut off irrigation to thousands of farms that are dependent on Australia's largest river system, the Murray-Darling basin.

Howard is not willing to admit, however, that global warming is the cause of the drought. At most, he says "there does appear to be a change in the weather pattern." He said Australia might be "going back to a drier period," but he is conspicuously alone in that assessment. Unlike hurricane Katrina, whose global warming origins were more strongly debated, most Australians blame the drought on human-caused climate change.

Ross Gittens (the best of our economic commentators) says that the Rodent's water plan is just another mirage.
Sometimes I suspect that all our politicians care about these days is being seen to tackle problems. They don't want to fix problems, just be seen trying. The beauty of being in the appearance business is that you can make grand gestures while the problem is at the forefront of the electorate's mind.

Actually wanting to fix problems has a host of disadvantages. It takes time to come up with a sensible plan. The measures most likely to work often are far more complex than the simple solutions that appeal to voters and talk-back jocks. And it's hard to tackle a problem genuinely without offending some powerful interest group.

I've been led to these depressing thoughts by contemplation of John Howard's $10-billion plan to rescue the Murray-Darling basin. They're the only way to make sense of it.

There was a time when Howard ridiculed voters and politicians who thought you could solve a problem merely by throwing money at it. Not any more. That nice round figure of $10 billion has played a central part in his efforts to convince us he has the answer to our water problems.

The Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks, is quite right to reject the national water plan. Trouble is, he's rejecting it for just the wrong reason. His stated objection is merely territorial - he doesn't want to hand over his state's power over rural water. But ending the interminable squabbling between the four Murray-Darling states and transferring overall responsibility to the national government is the one thing Howard's plan has going for it.

No, the legitimate objection is that the things he plans to do with his - sorry, our - $10 billion would achieve very little. ...

The nation's water problem comes in two parts. There's the destruction of our inland river systems because of over-irrigation, and there's the acute shortages of water in the capital cities - shortages that may just be the temporary consequence of a severe drought or may be a harbinger of the climate change to come.

Irrigation accounts for about 70 per cent of all water use in Australia. Households take only about 10 per cent, sewerage and drainage takes another 10 per cent and mainly city-based industry takes the rest. About 85 per cent of irrigation takes place in the Murray-Darling basin. City water prices are about 10 times the price of (admittedly, untreated) water for irrigation.

Although the cities' water problem would be most prominent in voters' minds, Howard's "national plan for water security" doesn't mention it. The obvious way to alleviate the cities' problems would be to allow them to buy some of the irrigators' water allocations.

Many irrigators would make more money from selling water to the city than from using it to produce low value-added crops. For the cities, buying rural water would be a lot more economic than spending a fortune on recycling and desalination plants.

But Howard's plan doesn't contemplate such sales. Why not? It's contrary to National Party policy. The Nats don't want to see any decline in irrigation activity, no matter how ecologically damaging or uneconomic it may be.

A rational approach to water policy would concentrate on making sure water - city and rural - was correctly priced to reflect its scarcity and on maximising the opportunity for water to be traded in markets so it finds its most valuable use.

That's what the economists would advise - and already have. But they were sidelined in favour of the big spenders. It's only taxpayers' money - what's your problem? ...

The Cleantech investment boom has finally reached down under, with early stage venture fund Southern Cross Venture Partners raising money to invest in various sectors including clean energy.
A BOOMING private equity sector has helped fill the boots of Australia's biggest ever, early-stage venture fund, a market languising since the dotcom boom. Southern Cross yesterday said it had grabbed $170 million, signaling the potential for a new golden era for local technology-related businesses that have been shunned as investors chased more established companies.

The funds manager, Southern Cross Venture Partners (SXVP) headed by venture capital industry veteran Bob Christiansen, has garnered investment support from Macquarie Bank - $60 million for funds it represents - as well as substantial commitments from Industry Funds Management (IFM) and SunSuper. The Southern Cross Fund, which launched in August last year, focuses on early-stage investments in electronics, technology, telecommunications, nanotechnology and environmental science including clean energy.

Red Herring reports that solar CSP technology company Entach has been acquired by WorldWater (strange spinoff for ESystems to have done I might add).
WorldWater & Solar Technologies, a developer of solar energy systems, announced Tuesday it has agreed to an $18.3 million cash-and-stock acquisition of Entech. Entech’s technology uses lenses to magnify the sun’s rays onto a smaller piece of solar cell, producing the same amount of energy from a smaller area. The company’s solar-concentrating technology has been used in outer space.

The deal reflects an industry shift toward higher-output terrestrially based sun power, analysts said. The acquisition will allow Keller, Texas-based Entech to crank up production of its concentrating technology for large solar power plants. ...

Entech will have to contend with numerous venture-backed startups in solar concentration, including SolFocus, Energy Innovations, Concentrix Solar, and Solaria. WorldWater develops solar-powered systems like water pumps using silicon-based solar cells and panels. ... “(Solar concentration) is an exciting new area for solar power,” said Mr. Tanous. “It’s sure to become a multibillion-dollar market.” ...

Entech, founded in 1983 as a spinoff of E-Systems, has pumped more than $40 million into developing solar concentrating technology for NASA, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense, according to Mr. O’Neill. Its photovoltaic concentrators, made to be a lightweight source of power for space probes, require an eighth of the area needed by conventional solar cells, according to Entech.

Renewable Energy Access has an article on Picture Perfect Parabolic Solar Collector Systems.
A mirror alignment measurement device, invented by Rich Diver, a researcher at Sandia National Laboratories, may soon make one of the most popular solar collector systems, parabolic troughs, more affordable and energy efficient.

Borrowing from variations on methods used to align mirrors in solar dish systems, Diver has come up with theoretical overlay photographic (TOP) technology alignment, an optical approach to rapidly and effectively evaluate the alignment of mirrors in parabolic trough power plants and prescribe corrective actions.

"TOP alignment could cure a significant problem with trough systems—inaccurate mirror alignment that prevents sunlight from precisely focusing on solar receivers," Diver says, adding a common issue with parabolic trough systems has been lack of accurate mirror alignment that prevents maximum energy efficiency.

Parabolic troughs use mirrored surfaces curved in a parabolic shape. The mirrors focus sunlight on a receiver tube running the length of the trough. Oil runs through the focal region where it is heated to high temperatures and then goes through a heat exchanger to generate steam. The steam is then used to run a conventional power plant.

The world's largest parabolic trough facilities, located in the Mojave Desert near Barstow, California, consist of nine plants producing 354 megawatts (MW) of power at peak output.

If you're ever passing through the Barstow area watch out for the bats...

Grist and Eco Libertarian (who quips "Wouldn’t energy independence be better achieved by kicking the habit, rather than finding a more reliable dealer?") note that the US Congress is considering more subsidies for mining coal (the enemy of the human race) and turning it into liquids that generate twice as much CO2 as regular dirty oil. Why can't they let renewables compete on a level laying field so we can switch to an electric transport system faster ?
What if there was a liquid fuel with the potential to produce nearly twice as many greenhouse gases as petroleum? And it would cost nearly four times as much to build a processing plant for this fuel as for petroleum? You'd say no thanks. But Congress is saying yes please to this flawed fuel, commonly known as "coal."

Legislation currently making its way through House and Senate committees includes federal tax credits, subsidies, and loan guarantees to the tune of billions of dollars, as well as a plan for 25-year military contracts for coal-to-liquid fuels. "For so many, filthy coal is a dirty four-letter word," says Rep Nick V. Rahall (D-W.Va.), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee and coal captive. "These individuals, I tell you, have their heads buried in the sand."

Because coal is from Middle America, not the Middle East! And the industry is figuring out how to separate and bury carbon emissions! And coal is the magic solution! Oh wait, no, it's still the enemy of the human race.

The SMH reports that cities fuel hope the US can kick its oil addiction.
Memorial Day is the unofficial start of the American summer. Summer is when Americans become real petrol heads. It's the time of year when they get in their cars and travel, and, of course, the time of the year when petrol prices rise.

Last week, the national average petrol price was equal to $1.03 a litre, which for Americans, is considered a national scandal. Everybody is blaming somebody else; mostly the oil companies, Iraq, the oil companies, Iran, oil companies, George Bush or the oil companies.

The economists predict that the high price won't necessarily affect the driving habits of Americans. They are, in the words of George Bush, addicted to oil. Instead, they will give up a meal out or that new electronic gizmo.

In other words, Americans won't easily give up driving those Hummers, although over time the price of petrol spells bad news for General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, which have based their businesses on selling monster SUVs, and left the small-car market to the Japanese, the Koreans and Europeans.

In New York, summer means air-conditioners, as most apartments, jammed together, have almost no flow-through ventilation.

The recent report into New York City's future found that the metropolis was one of the most greenhouse gas efficient cities in the nation. If that is true, then the rest of the country must have turned burning coal into a sport.

The report found that a New Yorker, on average, produces 7.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, compared with the American average of 24.5 tonnes, thanks to a lack of heavy industries and to New York being one of the few cities in America with an efficient, patronised public transport system (and enough congestion that public transport becomes a good alternative).

Next week, the G8 industrialised nations meet, and a greenhouse gas declaration is on the agenda. Despite a latter-day conversion to the dangers of climate change, the Bush Administration appears set to reject setting any target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Europeans want to cut emissions by 50 per cent by 2050.

Like a lot of other issues, the Bush Administration is running a long way behind the mood of the country. Where the Federal Government has failed to act, states and cities have stepped in. California, on its own the world's 12th-worst emitter of greenhouse gases, has enacted a law meant to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, which will require a 25 per cent cut from present levels.

WorldChanging has a post on a green referendum for Mexico City. WorldChanging also has the latest in their "Principles" series - Principle 17: Environmental Justice.
Mexico City is one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas, home to nearly 21 million inhabitants. About four million cars travel every day through the city, causing serious pollution and congestion problems. Mexico City’s Major Marcelo Ebrard, who goes to work on a bike at least once a month, is committed to adopting and adhering to environmentally friendly practices to improve the sustainability of the city.

Mr. Ebrard recently joined other leaders of the world’s largest cities and CEOs of international corporations to pursue joint efforts to combat global warming while ensuring economic benefits for cities. The occasion was the C40 Large Cities Summit, a gathering of Mayors dedicated to reducing carbon emissions and to developing infrastructure that encourages more efficient use of energy. His objective was securing $200 millions of external funding from Bill Clinton’s recently crated Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program.

The Program aims to reduce carbon emissions by outfitting city-owned buildings with green technology. Under the umbrella of the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI), 16 cities around the world (among them, Mexico City) will receive more than $1 billion worth of financing for renovation projects such as: making roofs white or reflective to deflect more of the sun’s heat; replacing lightning, heating and cooling systems with energy efficient technologies, etc.

During the event, Major Marcelo Ebrard, who also happens to be one of the masterminds behind Mexico City’s successful ‘One Day Without A Car Program,’ announced the city will conduct a green referendum on issues relating to the environment. It will serve as a reference point for policy makers to design the environmental strategy of the city. Ebrard argues that citizen consultation is crucial, since some of the initiatives he wants to promote require their direct involvement.

Questions residents of Mexico City (including children) will find in the referendum include:

» Should the government continue building second decks (as an alternative to reduce car congestion) to Mexico City’s freeways?
» What characteristics must the new subway line have?
» Should hybrid and electric cars be subject to a special regulation?
» How can public transportation be reformed and upgraded?
» Should the government invest more in unmotorized movement corridors (specifically designed for bikes)?

The Straight Dope has a summary of why you shouldn't freak out about bee colony collapse disorder.
First and most important: There are some 20,000 species of bees in the world, and many thousands more types of pollinating insects. What you're hearing about, "colony collapse disorder," affects one species of bee – the European honey bee. That species happens to be the one global agriculture relies upon for about 30% of its pollination requirements. So while we're not talking about losing all the world's pollinators, we are talking about losing a significant fraction of them. That's the worst-case scenario, with the species wiped out completely.

Second, there's no reason at this point to think European honey bees are going to be wiped out, now or ever. The die-offs so far appear to affect some beekeepers more than others, sometimes in the same area. That's one reason scientists are so puzzled, but it strongly suggests the losses may have something to do with how individual beekeepers are managing their bees. The "significant percentage" of failing hives is still a drop in the bucket when viewed against the global population of honey bees, and there are lots of beekeepers (even in the U.S., which appears hardest hit) who have not had, and may never have, significant losses of colonies. Plenty of honey bees remain to replace the ones that have died. It's not yet time to scream that the sky is falling.

Third, it's almost impossible to get hard numbers on how many colonies have died recently, and how much of the current uproar is media hype based on guesses, estimates and anecdotal accounts from the handful of beekeepers who have had the most colony losses. If you talk to other beekeepers, most admit they have colonies die off every winter, but they don't always keep records on how many. A lot of the reports we're hearing are based on personal recollection rather than careful documentation. In other words, the scary figures you're hearing could be exaggerated.

Fourth, even the original report describing and naming the phenomenon explicitly says it's something that has been seen before (repeatedly), named before, and studied before – in all cases without coming to any conclusion about the cause. The researchers didn't like the older names for the syndrome (which usually included the word "disease," which has connotations about infectiousness that don't seem applicable here), so they renamed it colony collapse disorder. That point has largely eluded the press, with the result that most people think this is a new phenomenon, when in fact the researchers who described it note reports of similar die-offs dating back to the 1890s.

Fifth, if what we're seeing is indeed a recurrence of a century-old phenomenon, that's a pretty good argument against theories of causation involving things that haven't been around that long. ...

Sixth, it's never a good idea to trust what the media are telling you. At least once in the present case the media got something completely wrong and created a huge mess: The story about cell phones was basically a misrepresentation of what one pair of reporters wrote about a study that they misinterpreted. In a nutshell, the original research didn't involve cell phones, and the researchers never said their research was related to honey bee colony die-offs. Even details like the alleged Einstein quote are dubious. No one has yet found proof that Einstein said anything about bees dying off – the earliest documented appearance of the "quote" is 1994 and, yes, Albert was dead at the time.

The bottom line? No one is certain what's going on, but a lot of the theories can't – by themselves – explain everything we're seeing. More important, the situation hasn't yet risen to the level of a catastrophe (except, sadly, for some of the affected beekeepers). If the same thing keeps happening every winter for another decade or so, then we might really start worrying. But for now, classifying this as a "problem with potentially severe economic impact should it persist" would be a more realistic assessment.

The Huffington Post has a column on The Limits To Growth which does tend to misrepresent the book somewhat (remember - it was a set of scenarios that modelled what would happen under various assumptions over a 100 year period, not a prediction of what would definitely happen in a decade or two - and the impact it (and the oil price spike) had in the 1970's was partly responsible for things improving (via Energy Bulletin, who point to Matt Simmon's review of the book (PDF)).
In 1972, the Club of Rome published the infamous Limits To Growth. The book (which I read in the early eighties) used a computer model to simulate the world and predicted that we would be running out of a lot of key resources by, well, now. It said, simply enough -- that there were limits to growth.

Needless to say, we haven't run out of the resources that Limits to Growth expected us to run out of, though with the rise of Peak Oil and such, the triumphalism of the late nineties, where practically every commodity's price was at generational lows, is not quite so sharp. Nonetheless, it's certainly the case that the Club of Rome got it wrong - at least in terms of timetable, and perhaps overall. It's worth, in this time of the resurgence of environmentalism, and the basic argument that there are limits to growth "the rest of the world can't have a Western style of life", to walk back and examine why the Club of Rome got it wrong.

They made three main mistakes with respect to production -- they didn't account for substitution; they didn't account for marginal production and they didn't deal with technological advance.

...The late science fiction author Robert Heinlein got caught in the Malthusian trap, assuming that food production would be a problem by the end of his life. He got it wrong, and admitted it, and wrote that he believed the reason he had gotten it wrong was because the controlling resource wasn't the amount of land under cultivation, but was petroleum - 1st world agriculture had become so energy intensive, and in particular petroleum intensive, that oil shortages were where the problem would arise.

Which leads us back to the modern day.

The problem we have is twofold -- the end of cheap energy in the form of oil; and a limited carbon sink.

...So in terms of using substitution we've got a problem -- there really isn't a good substitute yet, and we aren't working very hard on making sure that there is. There are a lot of reasons for that, but the simplest reason is this -- a lot of people are getting very rich from the current situation, and they like it that way.

...Let's bring this back to the idea of limits of growth. Do they exist?

Yeah, they do -- for any given economic and technological system.

...That doesn't mean the earth's theoretical carrying capacity isn't very close to infinite. If we could capture much of the solar energy blasting through with any amount of efficiency, and if we could use that energy in a way that didn't overwhelm Earth's ability to sink them; or to mitigate them, we could support a much larger population in an even better than 20th century standard of living.

The Huffington Post also has a post on why Al Gore Urges Us to Think Differently.
Al Gore has -- I believe -- transcended the victim mentality that so many people (to the delight of the legal profession, which encourages this kind of thinking) have bought into here in America. He knows that we have a socio-political system which is designed to work, but that there are a great many factors -- not just some "bad people" -- that are preventing it from working the way our Founding Fathers intended it to.

This is not to say that Al doesn't think that bad people sometimes do bad things which effect the rest of us. Charlie asked him about the Supreme Court's decision regarding the Florida recount. I loved Al's response. He said that in America the only alternative to going along with a final decision by the Supreme Court is armed rebellion. Al knows it was a bad decision. But he also knows that the only option -- other than going along with that decision -- available to him was not a viable option.

Here are two things I took away from what Al said last night:

(1) The vast majority of the American people are being hugely misdirected away from the subject matter that counts by the demands of our modern communications system to make money and the knowledge by that system that emotion-driven stories lock people into a mindset that allows them to be "sold to" better than stories that force people to think (my way of summing up this point), and

(2) The America people have it within their power to redirect this system so that it gives them the information they need, once enough of them wake up to the danger posed by the continuation of the current system's emphasis on "emotion" rather than "reason" (again, my way of summing up Al's point).

In writing The Assault on Reason, Al hopes to wake us all up to the danger of continuing the anti-fact and anti-truth, emotion-driven thinking habits we have slipped into since television became a dominant part of our culture. (Last night he mentioned the Nixon -- Kennedy debate of 1960 as one of the early markers of this journey, when image began to be as important to the public as substance.) He realizes that unless we regain the ability to focus on facts and truth (I would call it science instead of pseudo-science), we will fail to address the challenge of global climate change, something we are rapidly running out of time to deal with. Al said that he wrote this book because he knows we won't change how we deal with the environment until we -- as a culture -- start to think differently.

My little contribution to the case Al is making is this: If we start to think differently... if a critical mass of Americans starts asking questions like "What do we really, scientifically know how to do?", "How much better could things be if our political and business leaders did what's possible rather than what's easy?", and "Is it true that one of the root causes of war is scarcity of food, water, shelter, and education... and that mankind now has the ability to provide all of those basic needs to everyone on Earth?"... we can get to that better world that - great "wonk" that he is -- Al Gore knows is possible. There are scientifically-proven methods -- many of which have enormous money-making potential as detailed here, by Amory Lovins, and here, by Bill McDonough - for getting us not just out of this mess but to a much, much better future. It's possible. We have the technology!

"Thinking differently" is a critical part of the solution. Using reason and logic -- rather than emotional manipulation and "vote for me and I'll protect you" daddy-ism -- is the route to the future we all say we want.

Rudy Giuliani's claim to be the hero of 911 is being disputed by firefighters, who claim he was nothing more than a glorified TV anchorman.
Here’s an unwelcome birthday gift for Rudy Giuliani, as he travels around the city raising money: protests from fire fighters and family members of September 11th victims.

They've shown up in the past at Giuliani's presidential events. Today, they’re gathering in Bay Ridge, and they have plans to follow him nationwide starting sometime around January, according to Jim Riches, a deputy chief with the fire department whose son was killed in the World Trade Center attacks. “We have all the UFA, the UFOA, and the fire members are all behind us -- the International Association of Fire Fighters,” said Riches. “And we’re going to be out there today to let everybody know that he’s not the hero that he says he is.” ...

And Riches disputes the notion that Giuliani provided any form of leadership on September 11 or in the days following. “If somebody can tell me what he did on 9/11 that was so good, I’d love to hear it. All he did was give information on the TV”. “He did nothing,” Riches continued. “He stood there with a TV reporter and told everyone what was going on. And he got it from everybody else down at the site.”

The Ron Paul Rebellion continues to gather steam amongst the disaffected right, with a divide forming between those interested in freedom versus those purely interested in power like the waterboard brigade. Obviously the geek world is closely attuned to my thinking as a Slashdot poll has Paul first, Al Gore second and daylight third (with fake front-runners like McCain, Clinton and the firefighter's enemy Rudy Giuliani each attracting a pitiful 1%).
That was when Rudy Giuliani blew his top—giving this writer the best reason I’ve seen not to vote for him and to urge others not to support him. Giuliani jumped in with, “That’s really an extraordinary statement. As someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th. I would ask the Congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that.” Delivered with the tone of a true authoritarian. An overwhelmingly neocon audience cheered.

Paul hadn’t said we invited 9/11, of course. He used the phrase contributing factor, which implies there were other contributing factors. When asked to reply, he elaborated:

“I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback. When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the Shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages and that persists. And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem. They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there. I mean, what would we think if we were—if other foreign countries were doing that to us?”

We saw, dramatized on national television and in ensuing media discussion, the two worldviews that may battle it out over the next year or so for control of the Republican Party—and possibly the country itself—with ramifications well beyond Election 2008. The one Rudy Giuliani represents (which is that of the Bush clan, the neocons, and the corporatist elite generally): the U.S. is an empire obliged or destined to rule the world, capable of building “democracies” in the Middle East and perhaps elsewhere, relying on a value system based on money and power. Power does not necessarily corrupt. We peons should fall in line behind our leaders.

The second, which Ron Paul represents, sees the U.S. as a Constitutional republic with a limited government, believes that sound economics requires sound money (not our present fiat dollar), would distinguish genuine free enterprise from corporatism, and advocate a foreign policy of trade with all but entangling alliances with none—i.e., a foreign policy rooted in respect for other nations’ sovereignty and their right to self-determination. Other nations’ internal affairs are not our business unless we are explicitly invited in.

This is not simply a clash between “left” and “right,” or between “liberal” and “conservative.” We may be approaching a major dust-up between those who want freedom and those who want power, between those who believe society must be aggressively centralized and those who wish to see power dispersed. We may see a struggle between those who want policies that allow the common man to live as he sees fit if he isn’t bothering anyone else, and a cadre of oligarchs who view the world as theirs, and who see themselves as unaccountable.

The Republican National Committee and its talk-show fellow travelers are all on the side of power. The latter immediately went into attack-dog mode. After the debate, Paul appeared on Fox News’s Hannity & Colmes show. Sean Hannity spluttered incoherently against Paul to the point where Paul had difficulty getting a word in edgewise; to his credit, he did not get flustered and refused to back down. He stood his ground the next day when Wolf Blitzer on CNN asked if he wanted to apologize for his statements. He retorted that Rudy Giuliani ought to apologize to him. He told Blitzer that Americans have the right to disagree with bad policy. Interventionism is bad foreign policy, he said, and ought to be challenged. Fox News anchor John Gibson tried to associate Paul with the 9/11 Truth movement by crediting Paul with saying “the U.S. actually had a hand in the terrorist attacks.” Paul, of course, had said nothing of the sort. Glenn Beck, yet another neocon talk-show host and Rush Limbaugh wannabe, has repeatedly smeared Paul on his show, calling him “crazy” after the first debate and a “dope” after this one.

Michigan Republican Party Chair Saul Anuzis proposed barring Ron Paul from future debates. After the RNC and the Michigan GOP received thousands of phone calls and several online petitions totaling over 20,000 signatures, they scrapped that idea. We may thank the growing number of people who get their news over the uncensored Internet, where Ron Paul is now practically the frontrunner, for protecting free speech from Republican Party elites.

Ron Paul’s point of view is gaining an audience whether the neocons like it or not. Major CNN contributing writer Roland S. Martin has said that his thinking on U.S. foreign policy should at least be discussed. Paul, after all, is hardly the first to say that our policies in the Middle East might have contributed to our being attacked. Jacob G. Hornberger, of the Future of Freedom Foundation, in fact has a detailed timeline of our interventions in the region going back to 1953, the year a CIA-backed coup in Iran ousted democratically elected Mohammed Mosadegh and instilled the Shah. As the Shah proceeded to butcher the Iranian people for the next quarter-century, the Islamic terror underground formed and began to ferment (see Hornberger’s article “Iraq, Iran and September 11: A Chronology,”

But more generally, the Ron Paul candidacy is exposing how the power system in this country is gutting the Constitution. This is very good news! Ron Paul has arguably won two national debates now—won in the sense that he came from the incredible disadvantage of a media blackout and has reached the point of having a message that is resonating with that growing segment of the public that is fed up with government lies, whether the topic is Iraq, illegal immigration, the economy, or any number of other front burner issues. ...

It might be worth noting as an aside that Giuliani has been linked to the proposed NAFTA Superhighway system. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, his Houston-based law firm, Bracewell & Guiliani, represents Cintra Concesiones, the Spanish megacorporation that has joined with San Antonio’s Zachry Construction on the Trans-Texas Corridor. This positions Giuliani firmly with the power elite. So again: do Americans really want him in the White House?

And should conservatives trust information from elite-controlled outfits like Fox News (owned by News Corporation, globalist Rupert Murdoch’s media empire)? Arguably the exchange between Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani was a set-up. During debates such as the one last Tuesday, microphones of non-speakers are turned off. Giuliani’s, however, was left on while Ron Paul was speaking. Why? Was someone waiting for something Giuliani could attack? Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media has observed, “[Fox News] seems to be emerging as an arm of the Giuliani-for-President campaign. Honest conservatives should demand better coverage.” Fox News Online published a dishonest Dick Morris column declining to mention Paul and portraying the race as “nine-way.”

A growing number of people aren’t buying it. They are responding to Ron Paul’s message of limited government, bringing America’s troops home from a pointless and increasingly destructive war, abolishing the IRS and the Federal Reserve, getting out of bad trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA, getting out of the WTO, restoring the Constitution, and returning to the idea of America as republic, not empire. It would be, as I’ve noted elsewhere, a first. But those who believe that America is still worth fighting for will get behind Ron Paul’s candidacy, and defend him from the media’s attack dogs. Since Ron Paul shows no signs of caving in, and I don’t see the neocons backing down, the next year promises to be very interesting!

Cryptogon has a number of classic posts - the Indian compressed air powered car, Volkswagen’s 282MPG Car, U.S. Legislation Would Bring Wind Power to ‘Grinding Halt’ and one on a UK Man Wrongfully Imprisoned for Three Years Who Received a £6,800 Government Bill for “Board and Lodging”.
Introduced this week by Congressman Nick Rahall (D. WV), and scheduled for action in early June at the House Resources Committee which he chairs, H.R. 2337 would burden wind power with sweeping new requirements that have never applied to other energy sectors, Swisher said, noting:

— Subtitle D of the bill would direct the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) to review every existing and planned wind project, a mandate far beyond the agency’s resources and capabilities, and criminalize operation of wind energy facilities not formally certified by USFWS.

— Under the legislation, landowners and farmers with wind turbines on their property would be subject to invasive inspection requirements.

— Landowners and farmers could face jail time or a $50,000 penalty for putting a wind turbine, regardless of whether it is for personal use or of a commercial scale, on their property without certification by the USFWS director.

A hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee is scheduled for May 23 on the bill. “This bill is an unprecedented threat to clean, renewable energy,” said Swisher. “It would undermine an essential piece of the global warming solution. Wind energy is the one readily deployable, cost-effective option we have available to meet this challenge, and Rep. Rahall’s proposal would put a massive roadblock in its path.

And thats from Renewable Enrgy Access, not Kevin. Amazing.

And to close, "Your New Reality" looks at "Apocalypse 2012 - How To Market The End Of The World". Those new agers who think that some sort of aliens will be arriving in 2012 will be gratified to elarn that there are billions of habitable planets that they could come from. I might add I think Pinchbeck's take on 2012 is a little misunderstood.
There is a remarkable and very modern myth that the world is going to end in 2012, because that is the year that the ancient Mayan calendar expires, marking the end of a 5126 year 'cycle'.

So of course this means time for all of us is set to run out as well. Yeah, if you're looking for a new disaster-book-publishing-angle it does.

Three books forecasting our own planetary demise have already been published, with many more to come. But you better get reading, and fast, you've only got four a half years to get all caught up in the biggest date-related hysteria since YK2.

There is no surprise to be found that some of these books pump a 'spiritual' connection between the allegedly looming disasters of climate change, the end of the Mayan calendar and a need for humanity to rediscover its connection to nature, and recognise its collective impact on the Earth.

From USA Today :
With humanity coming up fast on 2012, publishers are helping readers gear up and count down to this mysterious — some even call it apocalyptic — date that ancient Mayan societies were anticipating thousands of years ago. Each (new book) arrives in the wake of the 2006 success of 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, which has been selling thousands of copies a month since its release in May and counts more than 40,000 in print.

Authors disagree about what humankind should expect on Dec. 21, 2012, when the Maya's "Long Count" calendar marks the end of a 5,126-year era. Journalist Lawrence Joseph forecasts widespread catastrophe in Apocalypse 2012: A Scientific Investigation Into Civilization's End. Spiritual healer Andrew Smith predicts a restoration of a "true balance between Divine Feminine and Masculine" in The Revolution of 2012: Vol. 1, The Preparation. In 2012, Daniel Pinchbeck anticipates a "change in the nature of consciousness," assisted by indigenous insights and psychedelic drug use.

Lynn Garrett, senior religion editor at Publishers Weekly...says publishers seem to be courting readers who believe humanity is creating its own ecological disasters and desperately needs ancient indigenous wisdom.

"The convergence I see here is the apocalyptic expectations, if you will, along with the fact that the environment is in the front of many people's minds these days," Garrett says. "Part of the appeal of these earth religions is that notion that we need to reconnect with the Earth in order to save ourselves."

But scholars are bristling at attempts to link the ancient Maya with trends in contemporary spirituality.

Maya civilization, known for advanced writing, mathematics and astronomy, flourished for centuries in Mesoamerica, especially between A.D. 300 and 900. Its Long Count calendar, which was discontinued under Spanish colonization, tracks more than 5,000 years, then resets at year zero.

"For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle," says Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies in Crystal River, Fla. To render Dec. 21, 2012, as a doomsday or moment of cosmic shifting, she says, is "a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in."


Anonymous   says 8:37 AM

I only started reading this blog recently. You do a great job of collating news from a range of sources. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous   says 3:57 AM

So how will WE write it? How shall it read when we look back on December 21, 2012? We certainly have the elements in place to destroy ourselves. The planet has experienced cataclysmic events in its history - polar shifts, ice ages, etc. No one really knows. What the Mayan’s meant with their End-Count calendar will always be up for speculation. It fires the imagination, for sure. SOooo let's write it like we want it. That is what Chris Fenwick did in the #1 Visionary Novel: "the 100th human." You choose...

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