Ben Folds' Levi Johnston Song

The lyrics are by Nick Hornby, apparently.

The World Bank is spending billions of dollars to help construct coal-fired power plants in the developing world, using a fund that is supposed to help wean the world from carbon-spewing fossil fuels, the Times of London reported today.

The United States donated $2 billion over three years to a fund that would "begin the important work of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the developing world," US Treasury official David McCormick said in a press release last September. "The United States is firmly committed to the Clean Technology Fund and its mission to help developing countries make transformational investments in clean technology that will be necessary to move them onto cleaner development paths."

It turns out those "transformational" investments include coal plants in South Africa, Botswana, and other developing countries. One loan of $850 million will help erect a coal plant in Gujarat, India that will emit 26.7 million tons of CO2 each year for the next 50 years, making it one of the biggest new sources of greenhouse gasses on Earth.

"There are a lot of poor countries which have coal reserves and for them it's the only option," Marianne Fay, the bank's chief economist for sustainable development, told the Times. "The [bank's] policy is to continue funding coal to the extent there is no alternative."

But is there really no alternative to building a coal plant in Gujarat, one of the most industrialized states in India? A search of carbon offset projects funded through the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism turns up 12 alternative energy projects in Gujarat, including numerous wind projects and a 219 MW LNG natural gas plant. And don't forget the high-profile pact India signed with the US to construct of 18 to 20 nuclear plants. Moreover, South Africa has two nuclear plants and recently opened a natural gas pipeline from Mozambique.

The Times piece gave few details on how "clean" the coal plants will be compared to others in the developing world. But clearly the bank has a lot of explaining to do given its longstanding reputation for funding environmental disasters.

Quotes of the Day

First up, Rush Limbaugh's take on Monday's schoolbus incident in which a couple of black kids beat up on a white kid:

In Obama's America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering.

Charming, as always.  Next up, Obama communications director Anita Dunn:

Dunn played down the role that race could have in fueling the rancor. "I think that is less a part of it than some other people might think," she said. "If you look at the history of this country, you see that in times of great stress and change, there are people who are concerned, who are threatened, there are people who are scared."

Roger that.  Move along folks, nothing to see here.

Crystal Lee Sutton, 68, formerly Crystal Lee Jordan—on whom Sally Field’s Norma Rae was based—died last Friday of brain cancer. Her insurance company at first had refused her treatment, then after two months relented, but the cancer moved too fast, and Sutton died.

Would the new health care reform legislation proposed this morning by Senator Max Baucus—minus, as predicted, the public option—have helped her? Probably not. The nation is full of stories like this, stories which have scant impact on the Republican right in Congress, who have made it abundantly clear that their only goal is to take out Obama—whatever that may require.

But the case of Sutton is especially poignant.

Sutton was earning $2.65 an hour folding towels at the J.P. Stevens textile plant in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina when she was fired for trying to organize a union. Before she was removed by the cops, Sutton wrote the word 'union' in capital letters on cardboard and got up on her work table to lead workers in turning off their machines in solidarity. Her efforts were not in vain. In August, 1974, the plant recognized the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, which has since become part of the Service Employees International Union.

Sutton was had meningioma, a usually slow growing cancer of the nervous system. In her case, it spread quickly. "How in the world can it take so long to find out [whether they would cover the medicine or not] when it could be a matter of life or death? It is almost like, in a way, committing murder," she said.

Last year, Sutton told a reporter how she would like to be remembered:

It is not necessary I be remembered as anything, but I would like to be remembered as a woman who deeply cared for the working poor and the poor people of the U.S. and the world, that my family and children and children like mine will have a fair share and equality.

California Pushes Forward on Solar & Wind Power

With so much attention focused on health care, it seems that the media has all-but-forgotten that this was supposed to be the year the United States took the lead in fighting global warming.

Now it appears Congress may have also forgotten.

"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid just told reporters that the Senate could push back climate legislation until next years," writes MoJo's Rachel Morris today.

It's a good thing that CA Governor Arnold Schwarztenegger remember's the most important issue of our time.

Yesterday, the Governator signed an Executive Order ordering that rules and regulations be implemented to ensure that California gets a third of its electricity from renewable, clean energy sources by the year 2020.

It's great that California leads the nation in this fight. If we want to actually win the battle, however, the federal government needs to act, and act now. Not next year.

Ernest Hemingway, of all people, understood the necessity of collective action. To quote the last words of his dying protagonist in Islands In the Stream:

A man alone ain't got no bloody fucking chance.

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Osha Gray Davidson is a contributing blogger at Mother Jones and publisher of The Phoenix Sun, an online news service reporting on solar energy. He tweets @thephoenixsun.

Obama and Big Labor

James Pethokoukis listens to Barack Obama's two recent speeches to labor audiences and wonders if he's decided to throw Big Labor off the bus:

Both speeches were fiery, pro-union stem winders. Yet the president barely mentioned the top item on Big Labor’s 2009 political agenda, the Employee Free Choice Act....But the card check bill has struggled mightily on Capitol Hill and could clearly use a boost from the White House. Still, the president didn’t speak its name in Lordstown and devoted just a single sentence in Pittsburgh. Is that any way to treat the folks who poured tens of millions of dollars into Democratic campaigns last year?

I don't know why Obama decided not to mention EFCA, but I'll bet it was more tactical than anything else.  Keeping a low profile might just be the better strategy right now.  Arlen Specter, for example, now says that he's a full-throated backer of EFCA, and he thinks other Democratic fence-sitters might be too.  Mark Kleiman comments:

The legislation no longer has “card check” (automatic unionization once 50% of the workers have signed a pro-union petition) but it has two other provisions that, between them, do almost the same thing:  snap elections and real enforcement of NLRB rules against union-busting. 

And it has the provision that’s  more important than any of that:  binding arbitration on a first contract if the two sides can’t agree.   Right now, companies can just refuse to make a deal, wait six months, and then run a de-certification election (using the same dirty tricks they use in the initial elections) with the argument that “This useless union you guys voted for can’t even get you a union contract.” 

If Specter is right — and telling the truth — about Nelson and Lincoln, this year might see the passage of the most important piece of pro-labor legislation since the Wagner Act.

I'm not sure Obama needed to talk about EFCA.  He had just slapped labor-pleasing tariffs on Chinese tires, his stimulus bill has created thousands of unions jobs, and he's nominated three labor-friendly choices to fill vacancies on the NLRB.  Everyone listening to him knew that.  He can afford to keep EFCA under the radar for the time being.

Reid: Climate Bill May Be Pushed Back to 2010

The prospects of the Senate passing cap-and-trade legislation were already not looking good, and now we have confirmation that the proposal is officially in trouble: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid just told reporters that the Senate could push back a climate bill until next year. According to E&E News (sub req), Reid says that the Senate needs to pass health care and financial reforms before tackling climate legislation:

"So, you know, we are going to have a busy, busy time the rest of this year," Reid said. "And, of course, nothing terminates at the end of this year. We still have next year to complete things if we have to."

This isn't exactly surprising, but a week ago Reid was maintaining that the Senate could definitely fit cap-and-trade into its schedule by the end of the year. On September 9, his office sent me the following statement: “Senator Reid fully expects the Senate to have ample time to consider this comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation before the end of the year.”
UPDATE: David Corn asks Robert Gibbs at today's White House press briefing if he sees Reid's new position on the bill as a setback. Gibbs insists "we can continue to make progress." But this will make life much harder for the Obama administration when it shows up at UN climate talks in Copenhagen this December without legislation to cut emissions in hand. You can read David's tweets from the briefing, which also covered health care and other matters, here.

 
 

Yesterday afternoon the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee met to discuss the costs of the increasingly endangered cap-and-trade legislation. It was unclear why the committee, which has already advanced its own much-derided portion of the Senate climate effort, was even meeting to discuss cap-and-trade. That is, until the senators went off script—but never off message.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) missed the preceding hour of testimony from the assembled experts, but that did not stop him from lambasting the proposed "cap-and-tax scheme" that he claimed would only benefit the "Wall Street elite" and went on to predict an onslaught of ill-defined "green collar crime." For evidence, he cited a report from London's Sunday Times about the UN suspending the largest auditor of the Kyoto Protocol's offsets program for impropriety. Instead of interpreting this as a strike against cap-and-trade, however, the experts found the action to be an altogether positive development. (In short, stronger standards for emissions auditors mean more effective offsets.)

The next late arrival to seize the bully pulpit was Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), one of four centrist Democrats who've proposed shelving greenhouse gas regulation. He made sure to remind his colleagues how "very complicated and very difficult" it is to create effective cap-and-trade regulation. He also promoted the concept of a "carbon fee." The fee, a carbon tax by another name, is a fiscally elegant solution to climate change that is a political nonstarter—just ask French President Nicolas Sarkozy. But then Dorgan isn't interested in starting to address the climate crisis: "I think there's more to talk about, frankly," he concluded.

The most compelling points of the afternoon were made—no doubt inadvertently—by Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), who during 17 years in office has supported environmental legislation a mere 12 percent of the time, according to the League of Conservation Voters. "What do we get in terms of actual economic benefit from controlling greenhouse gas emissions?" he asked the beleaguered witnesses. Professor Michael Wara of Stanford informed Bennett that recent studies show that even the widely criticized House climate bill would more than pay for itself.

Sen. Bennett countered by repeating a bit of advice he'd received from carbon traders in the UK. "Go slow and go small," they allegedly told him. The overflow crowd of energy company lobbyists packed into the cramped hearing room let out a murmur of knowing chuckles as Senator Bingaman both responded to Bennett's anecdote and acknowledged the reason for the afternoon's hearing: "So far we're following that advice."

Rep. Tom Price: Public Option Will Cheat

The American Conservative Union, one of the co-sponsors of Saturday's big anti-government rally in DC, is holding its Legacy Council conference in DC today. All the congressional Republican conservatives will be there pow-wowing with the activists. One group that won't be: the media. ACU tells me that the only way for a reporter to get in is to pay the nearly $400 cover charge. Fortunately for us, ACU is Twittering its own event so we can see what we're missing.

Among the gems: Rep. Tom Price, the Republican doctor from Georgia, just told conferees that he believed that the public option—the supposed market competitor—would cheat to get ahead of the honest private companies competing to cover all those uninsured Americans who can't afford their products now.

I love how a few weeks ago, the GOP message was that the government would be so good at running an insurance plan that private insurers wouldn't have a chance. But then they realized that made government look effective, defeating their other messages about government as the problem. So the new message is that the government plan would simply cheat. Nice! Wish Price had said just how the government would actually do that.

Killing Healthcare Softly

With friends like Kent Conrad, who needs Republicans?  WTF?

UPDATE: Oops.  Never mind.