2009 - %3, November

Watch: How GM is displacing indigenous Brazilians to create offsets for its SUVs

| Wed Nov. 4, 2009 12:42 PM EST

Mark Schapiro's story from our November/December issue, "GM's Money Trees," on a controversial carbon-offset in Brazil, has just gone live online. Traveling with Mark in the Amazon was a team from Frontline/World, the PBS investigative series, which has a multimedia companion piece to this story up on its new site, CarbonWatch. Here's a sample of what they found.

 

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Deep Thought

| Wed Nov. 4, 2009 12:26 PM EST

It's Official: No Climate Bill This Year

| Wed Nov. 4, 2009 10:37 AM EST

It's official: climate legislation has zero chance of passing before the big summit in Copenhagen this December. Many observers have assumed this for a while, though some (myself included) were hanging on to a shred of hope that senators could produce something in time for the meeting. But on Tuesday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a full run of studies after he combines the various components of climate and energy legislation into a single bill. The EPA says this process will take about five weeks. Copenhagen kicks off on Dec. 7, just 32 days from now.

If the Environment and Public Works committee (EPW) could approve a bill before Copenhagen, that would be better than nothing. But right now even that prospect looks dicey, since Republicans are boycotting the markup. The committee's head, Sen. Barbara Boxer, could technically forge ahead without them, since the chair pretty much gets to set the rules. And with a 12-7 Democratic majority, she doesn't actually need Republican votes to pass a bill. But some worry that this approach would widen the partisan divide over the issue, giving moderate Republicans and Democrats in the wider Senate yet another excuse to vote against the measure.

But even if Boxer's committee does pass the bill, several other panels still need to weigh in before the legislation is ready for EPA review and then a vote in the full Senate.  Only Energy and Natural Resources has passed its component so far. Finance, Agriculture, and possibly Commerce could stake a claim—and none have even scheduled any markups yet. Now Commerce chair Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) is arguing that his panel should wait to do so until after the 2010 midterm elections. Without the urgency imposed by the Copenhagen deadline, any little momentum that the climate bill had could disappear very fast.

Cap and Trade's Winners and Losers

| Wed Nov. 4, 2009 9:00 AM EST

Who are cap and trade's winners and losers? Some of the companies you'd expect to suffer losses from the climate bill being debated in the Senate are actually going to fare pretty well, according to a report released yesterday by carbon-market analysts at Point Carbon.

The analysis looks at the net carbon cost to companies in the oil and power sectors, which account for 40 percent of all the emissions covered under the Kerry-Boxer bill. The legislation in both the House and the Senate would give these companies some allowances at no charge in the early years of a carbon cap, and would then reduce the number of free allowances over time. The net cost reflects the amount of carbon credits a company will need to purchase to make up for the difference between their total emissions and their free allocations.

One of the big winners would be Exelon—the country's largest utility, a major user of nuclear power, and a strong advocate for climate legislation—which would stand to gain $1.7 billion each year under the proposed legislation, according to Point Carbon. Exelon was one of the first companies to leave the Chamber of Commerce in protest at the business lobby's climate stance, and its CEO has appeared in ads backing a bill. FirstEnergy, a utility based in Ohio and Pennsylvania, would gain roughly $494 million and Edison would gain approximately $279 million. (The figures are based on Point Carbon's forecasted average price of $15 per ton of carbon for the first few years of the program.)

For many energy providers, especially those who rely more on renewables and nuclear power, "carbon regulations will have a positive impact on their balance sheets," the study found. Virginia-based Dominion stands to gain $210 million; North Carolina-based Progress Energy would gain $64 million; and Iowa-based MidAmerican would gain $69 million; Missouri-based Ameren would gain $58 million; and Minnesota and Colorado utility Xcel Energy would gain $27 million.

I'll Karate Chop Your Christian Book if You Don't Stop Pimping My Culture

| Wed Nov. 4, 2009 8:30 AM EST

Update: This afternoon the authors posted an apology on their Deadly Viper blog. So far they've gotten some very forgiving responses in the comments section. I guess I won't be needing karate lessons after all? That's a relief.

Zondervan, the world's leading Bible publisher, just released a book called Deadly Viper Character Assasins: A Kung Fu Survival Guide for Life and Leadership.

I'll let that name sink in for a moment. A KUNG FU SURVIVAL GUIDE. It's written by Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite, two people who must understand a form of Chinese even Chinese people can't make sense of, because the cover and website of their book features Chinese characters that read like total gibberish... because they are. They were selected because they "looked compositionally cool."

Seriously? At least the kids at the mall who get various Chinese characters tattooed on their ankles still want to know what the words mean. To me, there's just a total lack of recognition that Chinese characters are part of an actual language, and more than a pretty decoration. Or that the use of an stereotypical Asian ninja theme has little to do with the content of their book, which is Christian leadership. Or that this dubbed-over kung fu video made to promote the book is just downright offensive. Or that kung fu is Chinese and ninjas are Japanese, and those are two totally different cultures.

Is The Tea Party Over?

| Wed Nov. 4, 2009 7:38 AM EST

The tea partiers are launching the revolution. This week. But will anyone actually show up?

On Sunday, Rep. Michele Bachmann challenged viewers of Sean Hannity’s Fox News show to join her last-ditch attempt to kill health care reform. The fiery Minnesota Republican plans to hold a press conference at "high noon" on Thursday. She urged Americans to flood the halls of Congress that day, find their elected officials, "look at the whites of their eyes and tell them, 'don't you dare take away my health care.'"

Since then, so-called tea party patriots have been burning up the Internets trying to rally supporters to attend Bachmann’s event. But so far, their efforts haven't amounted to much. The official Tea Party Patriots website laments that Bachmann’s rally is being stymied by a "media blackout"—meaning that mainstream outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post have ignored it.

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for November 4, 2009

Wed Nov. 4, 2009 7:30 AM EST

US Army Sgt. William Brinkley, a security forces Soldier assigned to Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul, provides security while members of his joint team inspect bridges for improvised explosive devices, damages, or traces of tampering, Oct. 23. (US Army photo via army.mil.)

Need To Read: November 4, 2009

Wed Nov. 4, 2009 7:28 AM EST

Today's must-reads went forth and multiplied:

Get more stuff like this: Follow me on twitter! David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, also tweets, as does MoJo blogger Kate Sheppard. So do my colleagues Daniel Schulman and Rachel Morris and our editors-in-chief, Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein. Follow them, too! (The magazine's main account is @motherjones.)

Throwing the Bums Out

| Wed Nov. 4, 2009 1:55 AM EST

The electorate was pretty tough on incumbents tonight.  Democrats got kicked out in Virginia and New Jersey, Republicans got kicked out in NY-23, and Michael Bloomberg, who was expected to win reelection in a rout, only barely squeaked by.  John Garamendi won in CA-10, but that was hardly a race in the first place.

I guess that's not too big a surprise considering the lousy economy and the generally sour mood of the voters.  Unfortunately, it looks like the Maine referendum on same-sex marriage got caught up in the sour mood too, losing by 52-48, the same as California last year.  From a purely practical political perspective it's easy to understand why Obama didn't want to get involved in this, but it might have made a difference.  I don't have any doubt that California and Maine will both flip within a few years anyway, but sooner sure would have been better than later.

UPDATE: More here on the NY-23 race from David Corn.

More on the Next Bubble

| Wed Nov. 4, 2009 12:26 AM EST

The housing bubble may be over in America, but all the money that fueled it still has to go somewhere.  The Wall Street Journal reports today on the same resurgent bubble-iciousness that Nouriel Roubini was warning about yesterday:

Concerns are mounting that efforts by governments and central banks to stoke a recovery will create a nasty side effect: asset bubbles in real-estate, stock and currency markets, especially in Asia.

....Behind the trend are measures such as cutting interest rates and pumping money into the financial system, which have left parts of the world awash in cash and at risk of bubbles, or run-ups in asset prices beyond what economic fundamentals suggest are reasonable.

....The symptoms of a frenzy are most evident in Asia and the Pacific, where economies are recovering most quickly....Over the summer, a Singapore condominium developer raised prices 5% the day before units went on sale. After dozens of would-be buyers lined up on a steamy night, the developer — a joint venture of Hong Leong Group and Japan's Mitsui Fudosan — held a lottery for a chance to bid on the units. Singapore home prices rose 15.8% in the third quarter, the fastest rate in 28 years.

....The Australian dollar has jumped about 35% over the past 12 months as investors borrow in U.S. dollars to purchase Australian currency. The practice is propelling stock and bond markets faster than in the U.S. and Europe. Currency traders are betting that the Australian central bank, which raised interest rates by 0.25% on Tuesday, the second rise in two months, will continue tightening.

There should be better uses for this money.  Why aren't there?