A Real Energy Policy

My local Congressman, Jay Inslee, has introduced an energy policy called the New Apollo Energy Act. It is the kind of visionary policy we really need right now. Look it over and then email your representative and ask them about it.

As you may know, I recently introduced in the House of Representatives the New Apollo Energy Act, H.R. 2828, which seeks to solve, with more tangible long-term results, the problems that H.R. 3893 fails to address.

The New Apollo Energy Act specifically addresses the shortcomings in our current energy policy, where an overwhelming percent of taxpayer dollars goes to oil and gas industries. New Apollo advances a vision for this country's energy future that relies on American technological prowess and can-do spirit, engaging an investment in clean energy that will create millions of domestic jobs - jobs that we are now losing to Japan, Germany and Denmark because the White House has avoided taking a stand on renewable energy policy. Washington State, with its hi-tech infrastructure and historic creativity, is poised to benefit from a clean energy investment. New Apollo envisions an energy policy where America leads the world in clean energy jobs and where an American President will not have to walk hand in hand with the Saudi royal family to lower our energy prices. New Apollo does this at no cost to the taxpayer, as the program is built to be self sufficient.

Key features of the New Apollo Energy Act:

*Clean Energy: New Apollo provides $49 billion in government loan guarantees for the construction of clean-energy generation facilities that will produce power from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, oceans, coal with carbon-sequestration technology, and other sources. The legislation also commits $10.5 billion to research-and-development and investment tax credits for clean energy-producing operations. In addition, it includes a 10-year extension of the current tax credit for electricity generated from clean sources.

* Oil Savings: The boosts for clean energy and efficiency will make it possible to meet New Apollo's call for notable reductions in daily domestic oil consumption -- cuts of 600,000 barrels a day by 2010, 1,700,000 barrels by 2015, and 3,000,000 barrels by 2020. These numbers are estimates of the amount of oil the United States would soon be importing daily from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the entire Middle East, respectively, without a change in current policy.

* Fuel Efficiency: The best way to generate energy is to not waste it, so New Apollo includes incentives for American consumers to drive fuel-efficient vehicles, including tax credits for the purchase of hybrid, alternative-fuel, low-emission advanced diesel, and fuel-cell vehicles. It also provides $11.5 billion in tax credits for the automotive and aerospace industries to develop new fuel efficient automobiles and planes, retool existing plants, and construct new plants to manufacture energy efficient vehicles.

* Global Warming and Greenhouse Gas Emissions: New Apollo enacts a proposal similar to the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act by capping our emissions of greenhouse gases while allowing companies to purchase and trade credits among themselves to ensure the most cost-effective reductions, and funding research to help industries make the shift to cleaner operations. The bill targets one of the biggest greenhouse-gas offenders -- coal -- by providing $7 billion in loan guarantees for the development of clean coal power plants.

* Clean Energy Jobs: New Apollo will close the existing technology gap with foreign competitors by investing billions of dollars in new federal research into advanced clean technologies, and creating a government-funded risk pool to help struggling start-up clean-energy companies commercialize their products. One study by the Apollo Alliance has found that a substantial federal commitment to clean energy could yield up to 3.3 million jobs nationally.

* Renewable Portfolio: New Apollo contains a Renewable Portfolio Standard requiring all utilities, by 2021, to produce 10 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources.

* Energy Transmission: New Apollo creates national net-metering and interconnection standards that allow homeowners who generate clean energy to reduce their energy bills by feeding surplus electricity back into the grid. New Apollo additionally increases regulatory oversight of energy trading markets, which was a problem during Enron's manipulation of the West Coast energy crisis.

New Apollo is revenue neutral, meaning it does not increase the federal deficit. It pays for itself by closing abusive corporate tax shelters and loopholes, and through auctioning off some of the allowances under the carbon dioxide trading program.

Other significant features in New Apollo:

Reducing Petroleum Dependence:

*An alternative fuel vehicle purchase requirement for government agencies.
*Tax credits for the installation of alternative refueling properties.
*Tax credits for the retail sale of alternative fuels.
*A renewable fuels standard set at 8 billion gallons by 2013.
*Modification of the tax credit for qualified electric vehicles.
*Loans for schools to buy high-efficiency vehicles.
*Ethanol-blended gasoline and bio-diesel government agency purchase requirements.

Clean Energy Economy:

*Federal support for the commercialization of carbon sequestration, coal gasification, and low emission coal technologies.

*Tax credits for the installation of minimum emission coal technologies.
*An order for the Secretary of Energy to create a credit for the creation of new electricity transmission lines to receive power from remote clean resources.

*Tax credits for energy efficient recycling and remanufacturing units.
*Requirement that the Secretary of Interior standardize right-of-way requirements for wind projects.
*Requirement that government agencies reduce energy consumption and use clean energy.
*Permanent extension of the Energy Savings Performance Contracts.
*Tradable renewable resource credits for public utilities.
*Establishment of a new energy commission to certify new technologies that qualify for credits under New Apollo.
*Tax credits for distributed energy generation and demand management property in residences and businesses.
*Tax credits for fly-wheel properties.
*Requires new federal buildings to be constructed using the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design's (LEED) silver standard for energy efficiency.


*$36 billion in new federal research authorizations for advanced clean technologies, fusion power, and technologies focusing on existing energy sources.

*Federal support for the commercialization of clean technologies.
*Improved coordination of technology transfer activities.
*Establishment of a clean energy technology export program.
*Renewable energy lending requirements for the Export-Import Bank.
*Grants to improve mass transit programs.
*Grants for sewer and water energy improvements.
*Tax credits for the construction of energy efficient homes and commercial properties.

Consumer Protections:

*Funding for LIHEAP and weatherization projects.
*Implementing energy efficiency standards for certain appliances, and provides tax credits for the production of energy efficient appliances.

*Establishing a national energy efficient home mortgage association.
*Requiring the President to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
*Requiring the Secretary of Energy to issue Energy Star regulations for solar water heating devices.


Sylvia Earle, the renowned marine biologist and explorer had a sobering discussion recently. Here is the take, as told over at Cosmic Variance:

Yesterday a friend of mine told me a story that she was told by a friend of hers, well-known explorer Sylvia Earle. Apparently Earle found herself at a fancy White House dinner, seated next to Trent Lott of all people. Innocent that she is, Earle thought this would be a great opportunity to explain to him the various ways in which our activities are wreaking havoc with the environment, in the oceans as well as in the atmosphere. After listening patiently to her over the course of dinner, at the end Lott nodded his head and said, But you have to understand that the long-term fate of the Earth doesn’t really matter to us, since everything will be re-arranged when the Lord returns on Judgment Day.

These are the people in charge of our country. Are you nervous yet?


The Beauty of Language

The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are this year's {2005} winners

1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until
you realize it was your money to start with.

2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

3. Bozone (n.) The substance surrounding stupid people that stops
bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows
little sign of breaking down in the near future.

4. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of
getting laid.

5. Cashtration (n.) The act of buying a house, which renders the
subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

6. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

7. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the
person who doesn't get it.

8. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

9. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these
really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's
like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.) The grueling event of getting through the day
consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido: All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when
they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic fit (n.) The frantic dance performed just after
you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.) Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into
your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor (n.) The color you turn after finding half a worm in
the fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the literature

18. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole


Bush Wouldn't Get Lucky Twice

If a presidential election were held this year, Bush would lose according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll. Fifty-five percent of respondents would vote for a democrat. This isn't surprising considering how badly the Bush administration has bungled the job of governing. However, a larger issue is this: what did the 51% of Americans who voted for Bush a second time expect would happen? He did a shitty job in his first term. Did they think that all of a sudden he would metamorphosize into an uber-leader? As far as I'm concerned, if you voted for Bush in the second election, you have no right to complain. You buried your head in the sand, ignored the multiple lines of evidence that demonstrated the failure and ineptitude of his administration, and voted for him anyway. The result? Continued problems in Iraq; record levels of opium exportation from Afghanistan; abuse/misuse of science; irresponsible fiscal policies; terrible foreign relations; potential criminal acts among his staff; blatantly unqualified Supreme Court nominee, among many other issues. This doesn't even include the DeLay and Frist fiascos. There is no doubt that in 50 years time, history will have very little good to say about President Bush's two terms in office.

On another topic, have you watched or read the daily press briefings from the White House. So far, I have never seen Scott Mclellan actually answer a straightforward question. It is literally sentence after sentence of bullshit. Ari Fleischer at least gave legitimate responses. How can you trust your government when they cannot provide honest answers to clear questions. Again, is it any wonder that Bush's approval rating is 38%?

The Truth

Al Franken's new book is out, The Truth (with jokes). Here's an inside look of what it's about:


They told us that when we invaded, we'd be greeted with sweets and flowers. They left out the crucial modifier: "exploding."

George W. Bush wants to amend our Constitution to make it illegal for gays to marry. But evidently, he has no problem with terrorists getting married. America can't afford a president who is soft on terrorist marriage. Because unlike gays, terrorists can breed.

The FristCam Act of 2005 would place a video camera in every one of America's Intensive Care Units. The FristCams would pan the ICUs, and the Senate Majority Leader would give each patient a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down.

Bin Laden must have been furious. Here he had gone to all this trouble to murder thousands of Americans, and Saddam—Saddam, the infidel!—was getting all the credit! Who was the head of al Qaeda?! Who was funding al Qaeda?! Somewhere along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border there was a very angry terrorist mastermind.

From what I understand, if you cut out all the passages in the Bible where Jesus talks about the poor, about helping out the least among us, you'd have the perfect container to smuggle Rush Limbaugh's drugs in.

The number Bush kept using, $11 trillion, represented the total shortfall from now until the year Infinity. If you think about it, $11 trillion over Infinity years is nothing. Over the first 11 trillion years, that's just one dollar a year. Easy. After that, it's over. You're done. What, exactly, is the problem?

Good Stuff

"They Tried To Teach My Baby Science"


A Plan for Iraq

Via Daily Kos:

Bryan Lentz was the featured Fighting Dem this past Tuesday. Asked about Iraq, Lentz gave a great answer and I asked him to write it up for this site. Here it is:


By Bryan Lentz

As many of you already know, I am a candidate in Pennsylvania's Seventh congressional district, which encompasses Delaware County, and parts of Chester and Montgomery counties, in southeast Pennsylvania. There is no reason that suburban Philadelphia should be represented by an extremist, conservative congressmen like Curt Weldon, who among other things has voted to eviscerate workers' rights and who opposes stem cell research.

Weldon is also a senior member of the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee and a key architect of the Bush administration's disastrous Iraq policy.

Having served for a year in Iraq, where I oversaw civil reconstruction in and around the city of Mosul as a Major in the United States Army, I can offer a good deal of expertise on the war.

I've spoken with friends and neighbors in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, where I live, and throughout the district. Some were in favor of the war before it began; others were opposed. But all agree that the Bush administration failed to gather solid pre-war intelligence and botched the post-war reconstruction effort. Sadly, we can't turn the clock back and reverse George Bush and Curt Weldon's incompetence. But we can do two things to inspire optimism in this wars two great constituencies; the American people and the Iraqi people:

First, we can (and should) establish a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The president and his supporters have suggested that establishing a timeline would only embolden the enemy. This is false. Our current problem is not that we plan too much; it's that the Bush dministration has planned too little. History and experience make clear the price to be paid by such a failure.

The current open ended, bottomless strategy has weakened morale among U.S. troops and U.S. citizens, made it more difficult for the National Guard and Reserve units to meet their enlistment targets, and engendered despair among ordinary Iraqis who see no end in sight to America's military presence in their country. This is bad for the war effort, and bad for homeland security, as we are unable to effectively deal with natural and man made disasters at home when Guard and Reserve units are spread thin.

The Powell doctrine which grew out of our failure in Vietnam recognized that representative democracies cannot sustain open ended wars; their citizens will not tolerate them and they have devastating effects on a nations ability to maintain a robust national defense.

By establishing clear obtainable objectives, meaningful benchmarks and a real timeline for withdrawal, we can boost the morale of American servicemen and servicewomen, help stave off the mounting crisis of confidence among the Iraqi people, and convince a skeptical American public that there is an end in sight.

Second, we need to radically overhaul the reconstruction effort. Thus far, it has been an unmitigated failure. Today, roughly half of all Iraqi households are still without clean water, the average household is without electricity for 10 hours each day, and (outside of Baghdad) only 8 percent of households enjoy access to a sewage system. The reconstruction fiasco has created a drag on Iraq's economy - nearly 50 percent of the country is under-employed or unemployed - fertile ground for political instability, terrorism and a growing insurgency.

Whether one was for or against the war in the first place we have an obligation now to ourselves and the Iraqi people to do finish this properly.

I believe in the Iraqi people. I believe in their future. They're very much like us: they want good schools for their kids, safe streets, and normal lives. But they can't be expected to build a stable and democratic country or believe in their own futures until basic infrastructure needs have been met.

We need to remove reconstruction command authority from civilians and place it directly in the hands of the military; and, we need to transfer as many of the reconstruction contracts as possible directly to Iraqi firms. Not one cent of the remaining taxpayer money that we sent to rebuild Iraq should go into the pockets of American firms profiting from this war. The American and multinational companies that are currently handling reconstruction in Iraq have all been awarded "cost-plus" contracts which assure them a profit and leave them no economic incentive to actually finish the jobs they've been hired to undertake. As a result, enormous sums of money have been diverted to security services for American contractors, and generous salaries for American businessmen working in Iraq.

I have witnessed this madness first hand, and it has to stop. Iraqi firms have proven that they can get the job done quicker and cheaper. In Karbala and Kut, two Iraqi firms spent a total of $185 million to build twin water treatment facilities. By contrast, a partnership between two London-based and California-based companies spent $200 million to build just one water treatment plant.

When we transfer reconstruction authority from civilian officials to American military officials, and when we put an end to cost-plus contracts by shifting the bulk of the reconstruction to Iraqi firms, we will effectively give a boost to the Iraqi economy and speed up the restoration of Iraq's infrastructure. The sooner we do these things, the sooner we can bring our soldiers home and refocus our national defense on the many other threats to our security that have nothing to do with Iraq.

The Republicans will try to brand Democrats - and all other critics of the war effort - as "anti-war." It's a cheap trick that suits their purpose. Nobody wants to be "against" our servicemen and servicewomen.

But this is not a question of being "pro-war" or "anti-war." It's about acting now to stop the spiral of failure that George Bush, Curt Weldon and the Republican party have created.

We must succeed, and Democrats can stake out a firm position in favor of competency and success. And that's exactly what I am doing in this congressional race, and what I will do in Washington.


A New Way to Learn

The journal Nature has a great new feature. Every week they now provide a 20 minute podcast about the current week's issue. Dr. Chris Smith discusses some of the new research and interviews the actual scientists involved. You don't have to be an expert to understand what their saying; this is for the lay person. Just copy this url:


into your preferred MP3 player (e.g. iTunes) and give it a listen.


A Democracy Threatened?

Over at the Chicago Law School Blog is a post concerning the state of India's democracy, and how close religious extremism was to threatening the pluralism implicit in India's constitution (as recent as 2002). It is also an essay of the success of democracy when the people are willing to take part. Excellent overall and there are more postings forthcoming, according to the author. To read, click here.


Rights & Responsibilities

I've been an atheist for quite a while now and have spent a lot of time thinking about what that means for my life. While I've come to my own personal conclusions, someone has conveniently provided an Atheistic Rights and Responsibilities list. Here it is:

As an atheist you have a number of rights and responsibilities. These include (but are not limited to):

  1. Have no gods.
  2. Don't worship stuff.
  3. Be polite.
  4. Take a day off once in a while.
  5. Be nice to folks.
  6. Don't kill people.
  7. Don't fool around on your significant other.
  8. Don't steal stuff.
  9. Don't lie about stuff.
  10. Don't be greedy.

Remember, theists will condemn you for living by this code because you are doing it of your own free will instead of because you're afraid that if you don't a supreme being will set you on fire.

So, if you were wondering what it means to be an atheist, there you are. If you would like to declare it to the world, click here.


Can You Guess What Happened?


This is a classis case of the snake's eyes being bigger than its stomach (as my mom would say). This is the first time I've ever seen anything like this with a snake. I would think that a snake has some intuitive sense as to how large an animal it can consume. Did the sense break down or did the snake have an anatomical/physiological problem? Pretty gross either way.

New Links

I've added to my blog roll (on the right) for any interested readers. The Becker-Posner blog is an economic/law blog. Becker won the Nobel Prize in Economics and Posner is a judge. The Chicago Law School blog is run by the faculty and, not surprisingly, covers a range of legal issues. Crooked Timber concerns a variety of topics ranging from politics to news and science. All three blogs are intelligent and well written (much more so than mine, alas). 1115.org is mostly political (on the liberal side). Daily Kos is a very liberal political blog (If you're a conservative, this site isn't for you, unless you have a really open mind). Mind Hacks concerns psychology, an area I don't know a whole lot about so it seemed appropriate to have at least one site I can learn from. Lastly, Deep Sea News if you are interested in deep sea biology/marine biology (like the recent news of the giant squid).

Also, I've vastly improved my life by downloading RSS Bandit, a newsreader that aggregates all my blogs in a single place (sort of like an Outlook system). So, if you read a lot of blogs and want to save on time, give it a shot. Works great.


Harriet Miers

The University of Chicago Law School faculty have started their own blog. Cass Sunstein gives her first impression of Bush's choice below:

We might distinguish between two grounds for evaluating Supreme Court nominees. The first is technocratic. Is the nominee excellent? Does the nominee have relevant knowledge and experience? The second ground is political. How is the nominee likely to vote? How does the nominee approach the Constitution? (The word "political" is too crude, because no nominee is likely to approach the law in simple political terms; but let's put that issue to one side.)

On technocratic grounds, the following recent nominees were obviously outstanding: Roberts, Breyer, Ginsburg, Scalia, and Bork. (Douglas Ginsburg belongs in that category as well.) No one could doubt the ability and relevant experience of these nominees. Their records clearly demonstrated that they were first-rate. The same could be said of several other recent nominees as well.

On political grounds, Judge Bork was of course found unacceptable by a majority in the Senate, and Republican leaders made it clear to President Clinton that they would reject some people on his list; they also indicated that Breyer and Ginsburg were sufficiently moderate. (Let's put to one side the intense debates about whether Breyer and Ginsburg are in fact moderate; at least it can be said that they do not share the liberal views of William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall.) For their part, many Democrats concluded that Chief Justice Roberts was well within the acceptable range.

What about Harriet Miers? She might be superb, but her record and experience certainly do not compare to those of recent nominees. She has neither been a judge nor had much experience with the Supreme Court itself. There's nothing comparable to the appellate work of Chief Justice Roberts, or the judicial and academic work of Breyer, Ginsburg, Scalia, and Bork. Even Souter and O'Connor, with their thinner records, had judicial opinions to evaluate.

On political grounds, there are at least equivalent questions. We appear not to have any sense of her general approach to constitutional law. From the public record, it was possible to give at least a rough and general evaluation of all or almost all of the recent nominees. Apparently that's not true here.

A reasonable conclusion is that this nomination should be viewed with uncertainty and puzzlement. A silver lining: The uncertainty and puzzlement should not divide people along political lines.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that President Bush nominated someone who has been loyal to him for many years, although it remains to be seen what her qualifications are, as mentioned above. The Senate should be much more thorough and demanding about her background than they were with the new Chief Justice.


Serenity Delivers

The movie Serenity surpassed my expectations. Joss Whedon did a wonderful job of providing the necessary info for newbies who have never watch the series while not bogging it down with redundant info for those familiar with the show. I also have to say that he had tremendous courage in the plot schemes he used given his fanatical fan base. Great humor, well shot action and even some dramatic moments, all in all it was worth the viewing. I'll probably go back to see it again this week. I can only hope he makes a sequel.


Gorilla Tool Use

Scientists have for the first time observed tool use in the gorilla. Thomas Breuer and associates witness a gorilla in northern Congo use tree branches for two types of activities. In one instance, the female used a stick to determine the depth of water and then to aid her in crossing the water. The second example was of a gorilla who used a small tree trunk as a stabilizer as she gathered food, and then used the same truck as a small bridge to cross a patch of swamp. It's very interesting to see how our evolutionary relatives use tools for activities that are not food related (as in chimps). It makes you wonder what environmental factors could eventually stimulate in gorillas and chimps for future tool use.

New Presidential Seal

Official Announcement

The government today announced that it is changing its emblem from an Eagle to a CONDOM because it more accurately reflects the government's political stance. A condom allows for inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects a bunch of pricks, and gives you a sense of security while you're actually being screwed.