Friday, October 27, 2006

Will you vote FOR pollution?

Congressman Gibbons recently decided that mercury was no longer a poison. His report to congress stated, more or less, that one hundred years of scientific studies and health damage observed were actually wrong – and that mercury is relatively safe. His buddies in the oil, coal power and gold mining industry, of course, had nothing to do with his report... of course.

Gibbons was also involved with the Mojave Generating Station – one of the dirtiest coal fired power plants in the US. (scroll down the Jan 11, 2006 blog entry "Reveiw Journal wants to poison Ely kids with mercury" Although the companies involved (including Sierra Pacific) promised to clean up the plant in 1999, the plant was eventually shut down – because they wouldn't install the equipment that would have reduced “air” pollution.

Oh yeah, Gibbons supported the give away to the fossil fuel and nuclear industries by supporting the 2005 Energy Bill

Gibbon's opponnent, however, claims to be against pollution. Dina Titus' website states that “Dina Titus will appoint a Public Utilities Commission that enforces Nevada’s law requiring electric utilities to provide 20 percent of their power from the clean, renewable energy sources of geothermal, solar and wind power by the year 2015”

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I believe that:

Religious texts should be appreciated more for their beauty than their authority.

Historical reviews should be appreciated more for their present relevency than their patriotic expediency.

Corporate publications should be appreciated more for their hidden motivations than their dubious "facts."

And political speeches should be ignored... Don't watch the lips, watch the hands.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Vote For Real Democracy

This is not a Democrat or a Republican thing. This is not a conservative or a liberal thing. That's the spin. That's how they keep us arguing amongst ourselves.

No, this time it's literally about the integrity of our democracy. This time it's about fairness. This time it's about true freedom and justice. This time it's about what America really stands for.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote an article, titled Was The 2004 Election Stolen?, published in the June 15, 2006 issue of Rolling Stone. In the article, he wrote of Nevada; “Sproul & Associates, a GOP-paid consultancy, shredded Democratic voter registrations... Electronic voting machines in the state's two most populous, Democratic-leaning counties recorded no presidential vote on 10,000 ballots.” Exit polls in Nevada showed Kerry leading by 7.5%, yet Bush won Nevada by 2.6%. This is statistically unheard of – and it happened in a number of States.

Your side may have won the election in 2004. But, if they had to cheat to win; no one really wins. Would you be willing to lose your Democracy for your side to win? If you are; remember, someday the tables will turn on you. Majority rule (with strong minority rights) is a flawed and imperfect way to govern – but, minority rule (with few majority rights) is much worse.

The Secretary of State Project states: “Katherine Harris. Ken Blackwell... these two Secretaries of State,” (of Florida and Ohio) “each chair of Mr. Bush's presidential campaigns in their respective States, made damaging partisan decisions about purging voter rolls, registration of new voters, voting machine security, the location of the precincts, the allocation of the voting machines, and dozens of other critical matters”

In recent pivotal elections, Republicans have relied upon their control of the Secretary of State position to dramatically influence voting and to block implementation of voter-verified paper trails. The results have been catastrophic for the nation.”

The Secretary of State Project recommends Ross Miller for Secretary of State in Nevada. Click here to read why.

Shall We Let Desperation or Hope Be Our Motivation?

In the past two days, I have been to two upscale restaurant openings, and a meeting with the candidates for the local elections. The food was great, and the restaurants' atmosphere was better than I had ever enjoyed in the town of Ely. However, at the meeting with the candidates, I felt that some of the incumbent candidates still felt that they were living in the old Ely.

Like many old Western mining towns, Ely has had to live with the desperation of the local mine closing. When times were bad, it wouldn't have been difficult to wonder if Ely would end up another Nevada ghost town. But it didn't happen. Although the local economy is still heavily dependent upon the mine, money is coming in from tourism and growth of the retirement community.

I have been predicting for the past five years that Ely was on the verge of an economic renaissance. It didn't take a crystal ball. The town is about as far away from the big city as you can get in the United States. There are no freeways. There is no Wal Mart. There is no smog. People recognize you when you walk down the street – and you're not afraid to walk down the street. Millions of city people would love to live like this. It was just a matter of time before people started moving here.

As a relatively new resident myself, I recognize some things that the locals may not see. This place is beautiful. And unlike most of the rest of the country, so much of this vast area is so pristine.

The town is growing, ever faster – because it is such a nice place to be. The infrastructure to support a tourism industry is developing too. Just stop by Maggie's for a meal, and you'll see what I mean. So, why cripple what we have, and what we can create; for dangerous, antiquated coal fired power plants – that we don't even need?

Think about it. In just a few years, we will stop building coal fired power plants. Face it, they're dirty. Their effluents are poisonous. Clean coal is an oxymoron. This attempt to shove through over a hundred coal fired power plants onto America, is a last ditch, desperate attempt to force consumers into a dependency on coal. America will eventually catch on. Hopefully, White Pine County will catch on before our homeland is despoiled.

Yes, coal fired power plants will bring in a few hundred jobs (most of them temporary). But a beautiful and healthy homeland will eventually attract thousands of new residents and hundreds of thousands of tourists.

Ely is on the verge of becoming a major stop on a tour of the West. Think of it; San Francisco to Lake Tahoe, to Ely, to Moab, and on to either Crested Butte, Durango, Santa Fe, or the Grand Circle, and maybe Vegas. I'm not speculating. This is already happening.

So, how do we want to perceive our situation? Do we want to see our community through the eyes of the desperation of our past... or hope for our future?

White Pine County doesn't need coal fired power plants to be prosperous. But, if we have the sludge ponds and the smog, and no water, what will make us unique from the rest of the country? If we lose what makes this place special, people will stop coming here. Nevada is not a wasteland... unless we permit it to become one.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Owens Valley Water Grab

You've probably heard of the Owens Valley water grab. Where, for the last century, Los Angeles has been taking water from what was once a beautiful, fertile valley. It looks like Las Vegas read their playbook - and intends to do the same with Rural Nevada.

Here is the attorney for Owens Valley, Greg James, to explain breifly the history of the Owens Valley water grab, and what we may be able to do to keep the worst from happening.

Click here to the see the video.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Big Coals' Dollars at Work

On my google search of “coal” today I came across two news stories. In my opinion:

This is the story.

This is the spin.

Neither news story lies. But the first story is breaking, and tells of likely corruption of the system that we trust to oversee our energy, economic, and environmental future – while the other story is a general overview that lacks critical inquiry to the statements of those interviewed.

As an example in the second story: A coal industry rep. was quoted saying; “The coal plant of today is so much cleaner... it can be a good viable resource without really harming the environment.” There was no challenge to this statement – when even basic chemistry (the conservation of matter) states that they can't make those bad chemicals and elements disappear. Most of what doesn't go into the air will just end up concentrated in sludge ponds. And of course, nothing in the second story mentions the $132,000 in campaign donations to the Texas candidate for governor.

I warned you... in the last entry.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Now, Thank the nice Saudis for the temporary price cuts

Aren't you glad that gas prices are down? Good.
Aren't you suspicious that they're down just before the U.S. Elections? Maybe you should be.

The New York Times reports that “OPEC did away with its quotas last year when its members pumped at maximum capacity”... this was “the highest level in more than 25 years.”

Thanks OPEC... I think.
Everybody in the oil businesses made a killing last year. I guess I can't blame you for selling as much oil as could at that price. Yet, by producing as much oil as you did, oil prices eventually did come down. Which means that we should only expect that you cut production now.

OPEC has agreed to cut production by 1million barrels a day. But, the details still need to be worked out. The actual production cuts will likely take effect some time after the U.S. midterm elections.

How convenient...

Now, some of you might see this as some kind of conspiracy to keep Bush's friends in office. Well, it is true that the Bush family and the House of Saud go way back, and that Saudi investment in Bush businesses have been very helpful. Also, the Saudis do pretty much control the direction of OPEC. But that does not mean that the Saudis want to influence American politics.

So, just relax. Have a beer. Check to see what's on cable.... It was all a coincidence that our oil inventories are up just before our elections. It was just a coincidence that gas prices will be at their lowest just before our elections. If you turn on a channel and see Bob Woodward (you know, that boring guy who broke the Watergate story way back in prehistoric times), change the channel. He's just going to irritate you with some lame story about the Saudi ambassador promising George Bush Jr. (way, way back in 2004) that Saudi Arabia would cut oil prices before the November elections.

I usually don't write about foreign affairs on this blog. But I feel it is important that we realize that the domestic coal companies will try to influence our government too... if they can get away with it. Sure, the price of coal is cheap now. But don't expect it to be cheap once we have committed our power generation facilities to decades of buying coal. Suppliers will charge as much as they can. That's just capitalism. And, like in some convoluted game of (create your own rules) Monopoly; they will play us for all they can get. To them, that's just effective business tactics.

And Remember: If we now had the alternative energy infrastructure that President Jimmy Carter had tried to build; by now, thirty years later, it's likely we wouldn't care about the price of oil. Someone didn't want that to happen. Someone wanted us to be dependent upon oil. Someone now wants us to be dependent upon coal.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Four Recommendations for Southern Nevada

Sometimes you don't get a second chance to do the right thing.

Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) is faced with a difficult predicament. They have been charged with the task of getting more water... in the desert. They may as well have been assigned to pull a rabbit out of a hat. But, they can do it, at least for a while, by sucking every drop they can take from their neighbors. Of course, it's quite obvious that this would be very, very wrong.

Southern Nevada doesn't have to repeat the destruction of Owens Valley. We have learned so much in the century since the Los Angeles water grab. We have other options. We have the technology. All we need is the will.

What I recommend is a multi-faceted approach that addresses as many issues as possible related to water in the Southwest deserts. We will have to do more than just go get more water. We will have to figure out a coordinated plan that will help everyone, without ruining the environment of our homeland. I have four suggestions:

1. This is a complex issue, in part because Nevada and US water law is too complex for it's own good. Apparently, back when water laws were written; all that mattered were that those writing the laws got their cut. Those who take the water have all the rights. Therefore, the big users of water have too much to lose to want to reform the system. Good. The big water users shouldn't be the ones to reform the system anyway. That's what got us into this mess.
For instance; right now, California is taking three times it's allotment from the Colorado River – while Las Vegas has been limited to a tiny fraction of what California is alloted. And apparently, California's lawbreaking water wasters can't be stopped... at least not until Lakes Powell and Mead are empty. And then, when there isn't any more water to take, it won't be our pathetic laws that stop them. (This scenario might be far more likely than most of us think. I've heard rumors that Lake Powell could be empty within five years.)
We need to reform the Department of the Interior – now! And not the kind of reforms we've been seeing recently in Washington, where things actually get worse. We need to be able to enforce the present water agreements, or change them.
Our water laws are out of touch with the present day reality of millions of people living in the desert. Simply put; the first to waste the water should not be the ones to have the water.

2. Since Southern Nevada can't... or at least won't... go without water – we need to find another source. The Ocean seems like a good place to look – and I understand that , due to Global warming, the sea level is going up. For that very reason, I would think twice about constructing a big desalination plant too close to the coast. It might end up underwater. However, there is another option that has barely been considered.
SNWA could mass produce a fleet of barges with cruise ship desalination units, available off the shelf, powered by wave energy – that could be built as needed. The fresh water generated could be made available to California as a trade for a bigger allotment of the Colorado River.
The primary argument against this is that desalination is too expensive. Let me remind you that the price of desalination is dropping. It is far cheaper than just a few years ago, and the technology keeps improving. A report from SNWA showed desalination as just slightly more expensive than the proposed pipeline network. What the report didn't show is that the pipeline network relies on coal fired power plants. It is inevitable that the price of coal will rise – but the price of waves will always be free. Eventually, wave powered desalination will be cheaper. It may already be. Of course, if you consider all of the costs to the effected communities and environment, there would be no question. When you consider all of the real world costs, desalination is already cheaper than the pipeline.

3. Conservation. Conservation. Conservation. A fifth of the world's population survives on less water in a day than you use to flush your toilet – once. To these people, we waste a huge amount of water. But, it would be silly for me to ask anyone to live like they do. You won't, and I don't blame you. My point is that when we talk about conservation in Las Vegas, anyone who has ever been there knows that water conservation is not at the top of their priority list. So much could be accomplished.
The good news is that Southern Nevada essentially recycles almost all of the water that goes down their drains. So, conservation of water used indoors is not that big an issue.
What is a big issue is what goes on outside. Most of the irrecoverable water losses are due to evaporation. Since almost no farming exists in Las Vegas, almost all of these water losses are from luxury uses of water – lawns, pools, lakes, fountains, etc. If Southern Nevada could get genuinely serious about desert landscaping and conservation of water used outdoors, they wouldn't need more water.

4. We need to invent less thirsty crops. That's right. Southern Nevada needs to get into the farming business. Don't expect Southern California's farmers to finance crop development when they can just get Colorado River water for next to nothing.
The technology to perform high tech selective breeding (called super-organics by Wired magazine) could be funded at UNLV by taxes levied on new construction in the Southwest Desert. Since UNLV is not significantly funded by the big agricultural companies, the school's researchers would be more independent than established agricultural programs at other universities. This is important because the big agricultural companies are all focused on Genetically Modified Organism research – because they can patent GMOs. Since selective breeding has been around for thousands of years, you can't patent a super-organic organism. This may not be a directly profitable effort, but if we focus on the water we'll all save, it sure is. The technology for the new crops could be given away for free. The big agricultural companies may not like the competition, but I'll bet they'll be glad to utilize the technology. And the Californians who been taking more than their share? They just might not want as much water.

So, those are my recommendations – enforce our water agreements, find less environmentally disastrous sources of fresh water, and reduce our waste.

SNWA has tried to convince us that the pipeline network is the only viable option for decades into the future. And politically, it is the most expedient. Conservation, in Las Vegas, has been an uphill battle for SNWA. Desalination doesn't directly get SNWA more water. And the courts are failing Nevada at Hoover Dam.

SNWA must feel like they're between a rock and a hard place. But that's no reason to go out and make things worse. And, in the long run, drying up Nevada is not going to be good for us.

None of the options I have suggested are decades away, if we start now. All of these suggestions will have to be implemented eventually. And the price of not doing them now will be overwhelming.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Las Vegas Growth is a Sell Out

I recently read, in the local publication – the Las Vegas Tribune, that:

traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard, which is already maxed-out at 50,000 vehicles per day, could more than triple.

And tourists are already complaining... those kind of surprises will have a major impact on whether or not leisure and business travelers pick Las Vegas over other destinations.”

The article pointed out that:

seven Strip hotel-casino projects already started or planned to be built in the next four years – the Cosmopolitan, Echelon Place, Encore, Palazzo, Project City Center, Signature, and the first Trump Tower” and “another 74,000 condo units have been proposed or are under construction along the Strip”

If you ask any tourist – just go ahead and ask any of them; if they come to Las Vegas to enjoy the traffic, and would come more often if there were even more traffic? I can guess what their answer will be.

If you ask any local – nine out of ten of them will say that growth related problems are Las Vegas' biggest negatives – and are approaching unbearable.

So, why is growth such a sacred cow? Who benefits? Well, unemployed casino workers who haven't yet moved to Las Vegas would benefit. But I doubt the city fathers really give a damn about them.

Donald Trump would benefit. So, let's consider “The Donald” for a moment. “The Donald” doesn't live in Las Vegas. The big corporation behind “the Donald” isn't based in Las Vegas. The investors in the corporation behind “the Donald” most likely don't live in Las Vegas. So, it might be safe to assume that “the Donald” and his backers don't really care what happens to Las Vegas, so long as they make a killing.

Construction companies would benefit. But again, many of these construction companies are now based elsewhere. Should we build, just because building makes some people rich? I hate to quote Edward Abby. I don't agree with most of his politics. But he once said; “Growth is good, just ask any cancer.”

Is growth really good for the community? Growth was so good for Las Vegas that it chased me out of town.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

While you were being entertained by Paris Hilton and football, unscrupulous people have decided to convert Nevada into the dump site for the nation.

Norcal Waste Services, of San Fransisco, intends to send up to 4000 tons of garbage a day to Lincoln County, by rail.

The Federal Government has surreptitiously approved the transfer 4,408 metric tons of Mercury into Hawthorne.

North from Las Vegas, there is a not-so-scenic dump site right along the side of the road at the old Coyote Springs area south of Alamo.

Northwest from Las Vegas, there is a not-so-scenic low level nuclear dump site just south of Beatty.

And, of course, there is the high level Nuclear Waste Site that the rest of the nation has been trying to force upon Nevada.

At this rate, Nevada will someday be just a big dump site. I don't believe that the citizens of Nevada want this. I don't believe that this is what's best for Nevada. I don't believe that this is the way things have to be. We need to act now – or else – the wave of garbage coming into our state will become a tsunami.

But there is good news, however. Kudos to the Nevada State Supreme Court for leaving out the regulatory takings section of the measure to modify eminent domain laws. (You can see the original ballot question here.) If they had left section 8 in the measure, it would have economically prohibited our communities from being able to stop a private land owner from doing whatever they wanted with their property. On the surface, this might seem like a good idea. But, how would you like it if your neighbor decided to put in a waste dump, and there was nothing you could do about it.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Farmers Tell NV and UT Legislators Our Future

Farmers and Ranchers from Snake Valley meet with Nevada and Utah Legislators to discuss the future of the area if the Las Vegas water grab sucks away the water from under their feet.Click here to see video