Subsidize Coal?!

I read in the New York Times today that Dick Gephardt, former Presidential hopeful and Democratic House majority leader, is now a shill for Big Coal. Speaking on behalf of Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal producer, Gephardt is promoting coal as an "alternative fuel."

The crux of the case is that newer technologies to generate power from coal, and to convert coal to liquid fuel, would allow a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. The power generation angle was recently profiled in Discover.

The main problem with coal is that when you oxidize or burn coal, you break carbon-carbon bonds and link the carbon to oxygen, releasing carbon dioxide. When you use fuels like octane, you break carbon-carbon bonds and more than twice as many carbon-hydrogen bonds. Combustion releases carbon dioxde and water. For natural gas, the ratio of C-H to C-C bonds is even more favorable.

Coal is the least desirable fuel choice for anyone interested in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The NYT printed a graphic accompanying the story showing how unfavorable coal is as an alternative fuel, even with expensive coal-to-liquid conversion processes, based on data from the Environmental Protection Agency.

So what does this technology accomplish? Well, if the US is going to burn coal anyway, better that it be done with these cleaner technologies. That goes for China, too. But the real agenda here is to make energy independence—a euphemism for allowing the US to be more hostile to OPEC states like Venezuela and Nigeria—a more palatable decision to an electorate that is emissions conscious.

The US should give loan guarantees to the companies willing to build these plants. It should not give a tax credit of 51 cents per gallon of coal-based fuel thru 2020—or ever. It should not subsidize the industry if the price of oil drops. It should not guarantee a 25-year contract with the Air Force for a billion gallons of coal-based jet fuel.

What happened to letting the market's efficiency decide on the appropriate distribution of capital? The corporate agenda in the US has nothing to do with laissez-faire capitalism, and everything to do with corporate favoritism, pork barrel politics, and subversion of the democratic process.

According to Howard Herzog, a principal research engineer at MIT, “At best, you’re going to tread water on the carbon issue, and you’re probably going to do worse.” How about this as cause for alarm: “If all the coal-burning power plants that are scheduled to be built over the next 25 years are built, the lifetime carbon dioxide emissions from those power plants will equal all the emissions from coal burning in all of human history to date,” says John Holdren, a professor of environmental policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Democratic Presidential hopeful Barack Obama is a champion of coal-to-liquid technology.


WTF? Arrested for WiFi Piggybacking

A Michigan man, Sam Peterson II, was arrested after he was found parked outside of a Grand Rapids cafe, wirelessly surfing the web via the cafe's open WiFi network from his car.

An article describing the incident on a local TV station's website states that "Piggybacking - using someone else's WiFi without their permission - isn't legal." It links to the Michigan law which supposedly prohibits what Peterson did: The Fraudulent Access to Computers, Computer Systems, and Computer Networks Act, clause 752.795 Prohibited Conduct, section 5.

A person shall not intentionally and without authorization or by exceeding valid authorization do any of the following:

(a) Access or cause access to be made to a computer program, computer, computer system, or computer network to acquire, alter, damage, delete, or destroy property or otherwise use the service of a computer program, computer, computer system, or computer network.

(b) Insert or attach or knowingly create the opportunity for an unknowing and unwanted insertion or attachment of a set of instructions or a computer program into a computer program, computer, computer system, or computer network, that is intended to acquire, alter, damage, delete, disrupt, or destroy property or otherwise use the services of a computer program, computer, computer system, or computer network. This subdivision does not prohibit conduct protected under section 5 of article I of the state constitution of 1963 or under the first amendment of the constitution of the United States.

In point of fact, there is a violation here. In the language of the law, Peterson intentionally and without authorization accessed a computer network to use the service of the network. Now, the intent of the law was to deny malicious access. Peterson was not malicious, just cheap. He could have purchased authorization with a cup of coffee. Or he could have stayed at home to pay for access instead driving to this cafe routinely to surf.

But he didn't. And to arrest him for accessing an unsecured network with no malicious intent or activity itself seems malicious. If the cafe really sought to protect its network, it would rely on more than the passive protection of a law originally enacted in 1979 as a reactionary anti-hacker law. It would rely on encryption and password protection, and would limit access only to its clients.

I wonder how many other jurisdictions have similar legislation.


Victimhood Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

I saw these pictures in Yahoo! News today. One shows Ehud Olmert inspecting a damaged Israeli home. The other shows the remnants of the Hamas Executive Force. Olmert looks half-tempted to stick that light fixture in himself.

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (C) and Defence Minister Amir Peretz (2nd L) survey a damaged house during their visit to the southern Israeli town of Sderot, in this May 17, 2007 handout picture from the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO).

-------===== ooOoo=====-------

Palestinian Hamas militants stand among the rubble of a destroyed building of the Hamas Executive Force after an Israeli air strike in Gaza May 17, 2007. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)


Smearing Gore

The self-described Former Next President of the United States, Al Gore, was harshly criticized after his recent Oscar victory for failing to practice what he preaches.

An organization called the Tennessee Center for Policy Research promoted the view that Gore's mansion consumes extraordinary amounts of energy, and as a consequence contributes to global warming. The Drudge Report picked up the story in February.

What the TCPR press release fails to reveal, however, is that Gore is making a concerted effort to reduce his "carbon footprint," his contribution to carbon dioxide emissions (see also this report in the Chattanoogan, and reader comments). He is reducing his consumption (for example, by using compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs), generating power (solar panels), consuming power generated from renewable sources (from the Tennessee Valley Authority's Green Power Switch program), and purchasing carbon offsets to compensate for the reduced emissions he generates.

Does his mansion consume a lot of power? Compared to the average American's abode, absolutely. Is he doing something about it? Yes. He's deliberately and consciously walking the walk; the Green Switch costs, the solar panels cost, the carbon offsets cost.
The disgusting thing about this story is how readily the media ran with it. In their gleeful unmasking of Gore's alleged hypocrisy, they instead baselessly slander him and undermine his cause—our cause—to sustainably inhabit this planet.
Do not trust the media for balanced, accurate, or truthful reporting. Parse the truth.


Halliburton Hides

Halliburton has been in full retreat in recent months, getting the f* out of Dodge and circling the wagons.

Says halliburtonwatch.org:

Halliburton is moving to UAE at a time when it is being investigated in the U.S. for bribery, bid rigging, defrauding the military and illegally profiting in Iran. It is currently in the process of divesting all of its ownership interest in the scandal-plagued KBR subsidiary, notorious for overcharging the military and serving contaminated food and water to the troops in Iraq.

Although Halliburton will still be incorporated inside the United States, moving its corporate headquarters to UAE will make it easier to avoid accountability from federal investigators. The company has proven adept at using
offshore subsidiaries to circumvent restrictions on doing business in Iran and to elude responsibility for paying benefits to former employees. Halliburton has also used its operational structure for contracts in Iraq and post-Katrina -- especially multiple layers of subcontractors -- to elude oversight and accountability to taxpayers. Moving to UAE may also hinder ongoing government investigations into Halliburton's alleged bribes paid to the government of Nigeria....

The United States has
no extradition treaty with the UAE.

Halliburton earned a record $2.3 billion in profit last year, and it is now putting all that capital—hustled from American taxpayers via the Pentagon's liberally awarded no-bid contracts—and all its operations beyond the reach of Americans seeking restitution. It is diabolically clever and unabashedly unjust. And it's going to happen anyway.

Wolfowitz: Like Getting Capone For Tax Evasion

Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the spurious invasion of Iraq, is now being busted for nepotism at the World Bank for awarding a plum post to his girlfriend.

Wolfowitz, along with Rumsfeld, Bolton, and other neocon luminaries, co-authored a letter in 1998 urging President Clinton to invade Iraq and eject Saddam Hussein:

The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.
Instead of responding to credible threats to the US and properly securing Afghanistan after successfully ejecting the Taliban, the hawkish cabal used the threat of terror as a pretext for the invasion of Iraq, stretching the American military too thinly, failing to secure either theatre, and actually increasing the number of terrorist attacks against Americans. The American dead in Iraq will soon exceed those killed in the World Trade Centre attack.

Although no ignominy fell to Wolfowitz for the Iraq debacle, he is being rebuked for impropriety at the World Bank. Hardly a proportionate or appropriate punishment, but I guess it's something. The New York Times reports today that European officials of the World Bank have offered Wolfowitz a clear and face-saving exit strategy: the US can choose his successor.

If only Wolfowitz had offered a similar exit strategy to his President.