Monday, February 13, 2012

Poll: Minnesota voters support right to work referendum … 55/24

REDRANT:  When he was a freshman US Senator Mark "duck and cover" Dayton heard a standard Homeland Security briefing.  It was classified but it likely included mention of two unaccounted for Russian "backpack nukes".  

US News had a story on this around 1990.  There was probably talk of increased "chatter" and a raised threat level during the Christmas holidays.  Then Senator Dayton altered the media, holding a press conference announcing that because he cared about his DC staff he was closing his DC office over the holidays.

Other more experienced Senators heard the same briefing, some in the same session with Dayton.  They could give details but described it a "standard".  

Many commentators noted that Dayton could just as easily put a notice on his office website and a note on the door saying that the office was closed so staff could enjoy the holidays with their family with forwarding info and a note that activity was low in DC during the holidays.

Dayton pretty much faded during the rest of his single senate term.  He admitted that he went back to abusive drinking after the "duck and cover" incident. 

Recently, as Governor of Minnesota Dayton has had an "erratic" pattern of personal attacks on Republican legislators and their action.  There is almost a "office pool" in Minnesota of when Dayton will have another mental breakdown.  Is this the "slippery slope?  Greg Lang

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


From Our Local Ag Supplier:
  • United States Tax Revenue ----------------------------------------- $ 2,170,000,000,000 
  • Federal Budget ------------------------------------------------------- 3,820,000,000,000 
  • New Debt Added This Year- ------------------------------------------ 1,650,000,000,000 
  • National Debt -------------------------------------------------------- 16,271,000,000,000 
  • Recent Budget Cut ------------------------------------------------------ 38,500,000,000 
  • Annual Family Income ---------------------------------------------------------- $ 21,700
  • Money the Family Spends Per Year ---------------------------------------------- 38,200
  • Annual Debt Added to Credit Cards ---------------------------------------------- 16,500
  • Old Credit Card Debt ------------------------------------------------------------- 162,710
  • Family Budget Cut ------------------------------------------------------------------- 385
You have to admit, this guy knows his fertilizer.

Quick Comparison of Liquid Natural Gas and Propane -- The Williston Basin, North Dakota, USA

REDRANT: This is BENCHMARK WHOLESALE but natural gas is going for around $2.50 per CCF (one-million BTU) and heating oil is $3.17 per gallon, again BENCHMARK WHOLESALE. It takes eight gallons of fuel oil to get one-million BTU. Thus $25.36 for the fuel oil to get the one-million BTU.

At the BENCHMARK WHOLESALE level natural gas is one tenth the cost of heating oil. This is "napkin math" and as they say "your mileage may vary" but there is a remarkable 10X decoupling in the BENCHMARK WHOLESALE cost of natural gas and fuel oil.

Stranded natural gas can be had at a far lower price, especially if skid mounted processing systems can remove "wet gases" like propane and butane.

I haven't done the math but figure that the BENCHMARK WHOLESALE propoane cost is six to eight times the cost of BENCHMARK WHOLESALE natural gas.

Most of rural and small town USA are not on the natural gas pipeline systems so getting natural gas to them can save a lot of energy costs.

On Craislist, old propane powered Minneapolis Moline Tractors occasionally pop up. You could easily built a dual fuel natural gas (probably compressed) and gasoline engine tractor.  Greg Lang

Monday, February 6, 2012

Red-light cameras boost coffers, rile drivers

Red-light cameras boost coffers, rile drivers

Sunday, February 5, 2012
California has the most expensive red-light camera tickets in the world - the fine is so steep that one camera in Oakland generates more than $3 million a year - and a Fremont man is launching a protest group to do something about that.
If Roger Jones has his way, that freezing dread that knifes through a driver the moment he sees the overhead flash of a traffic camera will become a thing of the past.
But he's facing quite an uphill fight against officials hungry for the cash the cameras sweep in and police who are convinced they make the roads safer.
Anyone in California snapped violating a red light pays a fine of $480, and according to the traffic-watch site, no other jurisdiction anywhere has a tab that high. The second-highest fine in the United States is $250, and it is usually more like $100.
The Legislature passed two bills in the past two years that would have reduced the fine or limited the cameras' use, but both were vetoed. When he killed the most recent measure, Gov. Jerry Brown said the matter should be left to local jurisdictions.
The state Department of Finance has estimated that red-light cameras bring in more than $80 million annually to the state and $50 million to cities and counties - and that, Jones and his supporters say, is the real reason they continue to snap away at motorists.
Not all $480 from each ticket goes to the cities or counties that authorize the cameras - more than half goes to the state or to the companies that run the devices. And not all tickets result in convictions.
But the haul is still out of proportion to the overall set of offenses, critics say. And so even though the fine for running a red light is the same whether a camera or a live police officer generates it, the cameras draw the fire because they can issue far more tickets than a single cop sitting at an intersection.


"Is there a limit to how much 'gotcha government' we have to put up with?" asked Jones, 62, a retired distribution manager who began crusading against red-light cameras after he got a ticket from one in 2009. "Just because you can do it doesn't mean you should."
His newly formed organization, the Red Light Camera Protest Group, picketed at Mowry Avenue and Fremont Boulevard in Fremont on Saturday, waving signs to approving honks from several motorists. It was their first protest, and the two dozen who participated plan more in the coming months - all calling for the elimination of red-light cameras and a reduction in the fine.
"I think we'd all be better off without them," Jones said. "There are better ways to address the problem."

Longer yellows

His foremost suggestion is to increase yellow-light durations, giving people more time to stop safely - and to avoid tickets.
After he pushed the city of Fremont in 2010 to tack 0.7 of a second onto the yellow light at Mission Boulevard and Mojave Drive, pushing it to five seconds, the city noted a 62 percent drop in red-light camera tickets there.
Jones and other camera foes also insist that rolling a red light on a right turn, also known as making a "Hollywood stop," is not as dangerous as other violations - even though the vast majority of tickets given by most red-light cameras are for that violation.
One recent study in South San Francisco, cited in the Legislature during a 2010 debate over the issue, found that 98 percent of its tickets at one red-light camera were for rolling right turns.
Few oppose the usefulness of any device, including cameras, for reducing the number of people who blow straight through red lights. But that's not the main issue, camera foes say.
A study last year by Safer Streets L.A., a community group opposed to traffic cameras, found that of the 56,000 annual accidents in Los Angeles, fewer than 100 are caused by rolling right turns.

Cops disagree

Law enforcement officers have a sharply different view of the topic.
City of Newark studies found that collisions at the intersections overseen by its five cameras since 2006 dropped by half - from 46 in the four years before the installations to 23 in the four years afterward.
And in Fremont, where Jones lives, police studies concluded that the city's 10 cameras contributed significantly to a 40 percent drop in intersection accidents between 1995 and 2009. The cameras were installed in 2000.
"This is not a big moneymaker for us," said Fremont police Sgt. Mark Riggs, who helps oversee the red-light camera program. The annual take for the city is about $250,000, after all the other parties get their cut, he said.
"It's about safety," Riggs said. "The big thing for us is aiming for a reduction in accidents.
"As far as the price is concerned," he added, "we have nothing to do with that. We are simply about safety."
As for "Hollywood stops" - he insisted they are vehicular dynamite.
"The right turn on a red is a very dangerous move, especially when the driver is looking to the left and the pedestrian is on the right," Riggs said. "We investigate a lot of accidents like that, and they are bad."

Lots of bucks

Despite the safety question, the price of the ticket, and the money it drags in, sticks most in the craw of those who hate red-light cameras.
Opponents consider it a form of regressive tax. The $480 tab consists of a base fine of $100, with extra fees tacked on by the Legislature to help pay for maintaining courthouses, jails, courts and emergency services.
Unlike most taxes and fees, it takes only a majority vote of the Legislature to add such charges. Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, authored a bill that would have cut the ticket in half for rolling a red light, but then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it, saying reducing the fine would send the wrong message to drivers about traffic safety.
State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, took a cut at the issue last year, writing a bill to prohibit use of the camera tickets merely to raise revenue, and to make it easier to fight them in court. That's the bill Brown vetoed in October.
"There are accuracy issues, privacy issues and due process issues with these tickets," Simitian said. "The trouble is that more and more cities depend on this for revenue."
He stops short of saying red-light cameras should be eliminated, saying they do have a safety value. "I just don't think the current system gives the public a fair shake," he said.
Brown's press secretary, Gil Duran, said the veto was not about money.
"Running a red light can cost lives," he said in an e-mail. "The fine is cheap by comparison."

Pricey corner

The sums hauled in by some of the red-light cameras in the 14 Bay Area cities that use them are anything but paltry.
The highest, apparently, is in Oakland at the on-ramp to Interstate 980 at 27th Street and Northgate Avenue.
In 2010, the most recent year for which city figures were available, 9,273 tickets were issued there through violation pictures - worth a gross of $4.2 million, based on the 2010 red-light ticket fine of $450. Figures available for much of 2011 put the gross worth at more than $3 million.
Ken Germann, a 65-year-old teacher who lives in Oakland, knew he was in trouble, and probably out a few bucks, the second he saw the dreaded red-light camera light flash at that intersection one day in December. But then he pulled over, watched two other cars get flashed right after him - and he got mad.
He got even madder when he found out how much the ticket fine is.
"I stopped full, and so did the others, and the camera snapped me anyway," he said last week as he stood in line at the Alameda County courthouse to book a trial date, traffic ticket in hand. "These things must just be there to make money."

Ticketing the family

Halfway down the block on 27th from the light, Phuong Nguyen works at MP Flowers and sees the camera light flicker all day. She shook her fist in its direction.
"Three members of my family got tickets at that light in the past month while driving to work," she said. "Lot of money for the government, not such a good idea for the rest of us."
Jessica Lubnieski, 27, lives a few blocks north of the light, though, and says she is grateful for it.
"I walk my dog this route all the time, and people go flying through that light when they turn," she said as she strolled by the intersection with Cooper, her mutt. "They so often don't even see us.
"I just have to think that camera makes people more careful."

$480 Current fine for violating a red light in California.
$80 million Paid annually to state.
$50 million Fines paid annually to cities and counties.
$4.2 million Amount generated in 2010 by one camera near the on-ramp to Interstate 980 at 27th Street and Northgate Avenue in Oakland.
Kevin Fagan is a Chronicle staff writer.

Pay extra for “green” electricity? Very few do

Pay extra for “green” electricity? Very few do

As Tom Nelson puts it: “Massachusetts residents believe so deeply in the global warming hoax that only 199 of every 200 failed to enroll in heavily-promoted “green energy” program
They are trying to pitch paying unnecessarily high prices for equivalent product as a “social good”, which of course it most definitely is not. Elitists might pay extra for the warm and fuzzy feeling of superiority it gives them but such spending does not provide gainful employment, taxes or royalties for society – it isn’t a “social good”, just eco-snobbery. Worse, it’s a form of snobbery that deprives the community of the opportunity to put those taxes to good use and increases the general cost of services for all.
GreenUp faces uphill battle
Clean energy program has higher costs per kwh
How much more would you pay for electricity that comes from renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydropower and reduces the amount of greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere?
For almost a decade, Massachusetts electric utilities have offered programs like National Grid’s GreenUp, which let customers choose clean energy sources for their power supply, for a premium. But even after including inserts in bills, sending online newsletters, hosting booths at events and posting on Facebook to promote the options, there are few takers.
Only about 6,000 of National Grid’s 1.2 million Massachusetts customers, or less than half of one percent, have enrolled in GreenUp, according to spokeswoman Deborah Drew.
GreenUp offers supplier options that purchase energy from wind farms, solar generators, hydroelectric and biomass sources. The extra cost for getting all your electricity from renewable sources range from 2.4 cents to 3.8 cents per kilowatt hour, or roughly $12 to $19 a month for an average household that uses 500 kilowatt hours. Customers can also select a portion of their energy to be renewable.
This price difference, with currently cheaper fossil fuel, is a large hurdle to overcome.
The benefits of using renewable energy sources instead of burning fossil fuels like coal include cleaner air and water, and producing fewer heat-trapping gases that contribute to climate change. The premium customers pay for renewable electricity sources are actually renewable energy credits that support the development of clean energy so that it will eventually be more available and less expensive for everyone.
The problem, according to clean energy advocates like Joel J. Fontane Jr., Worcester’s director of planning and regulatory services, who chairs the Worcester Energy Task Force and heads up sustainability initiatives for the city, is it’s hard to sell a more expensive version of a product — electricity — that looks the same from the user’s perspective. The lights work or they don’t, no matter where the electricity comes from.

Fracker gave Sierra Club $26 million to attack coal

Fracker gave Sierra Club $26 million to attack coal

Chesapeake Energy and its employees has given the Sierra Club $26 million since 2007 to attack coal, the Sierra Club has admitted.
Below is the admission in the form of a blog posting from Sierra CLub executive director Michael Brune.
The blog of Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune
February 2, 2012
The Sierra Club and Natural Gas
Have you ever had to turn away millions of dollars? It sounds crazy, but here’s why the Sierra Club chose to do exactly that.
In 2010, soon after I became the organization’s executive director, I learned that beginning in 2007 the Sierra Club had received more than $26 million from individuals or subsidiaries of Chesapeake Energy, one of the country’s largest natural gas companies. At the same time I learned about the donation, we at the Club were also hearing from scientists and from local Club chapters about the risks that natural gas drilling posed to our air, water, climate, and people in their communities. We cannot accept money from an industry we need to change. Very quickly, the board of directors, with my strong encouragement, cut off these donations and rewrote our gift acceptance policy. Let me tell you how it came about.
In the fall of 2005, Sierra Club staff and volunteer leaders agreed to make the enormous challenge of climate disruption the Club’s highest priority. By that time, we had already begun to have great success with our Beyond Coal campaign, which had started in 2002, and which had already stopped the construction of several dozen new coal-fired power plants.
This Beyond Coal initiative has continued to have unparalleled success working with literally hundreds of other organizations, small and large, and using grassroots power to stop more than 160 new coal plants and prevent 500 million tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere. Sierra Club activists are now fighting Big Coal pollution in all 50 states and on college campuses nationwide. Today, the Sierra Club is not just focusing on stopping new plants from being built but is also accelerating efforts to retire old and dirty coal plants nationwide.
As this campaign was gearing up, the Sierra Club board of directors, working with the best science at the time and with extensive input from staff and volunteers, determined that natural gas, while far from ideal as a fuel source, might play a necessary role in helping us reach the clean energy future our children deserve. It was also during this time, in 2007, that the first contributions to the Sierra Club were made from entities or individuals associated with Chesapeake Energy. The idea was that we shared at least one common purpose — to move our country away from dirty coal.
The big challenge, however, is what follows coal. How do we keep the lights on as we move quickly to an economy powered by clean, renewable energy? During the period that the Sierra Club first started receiving donations, several of our local chapters were becoming increasingly alarmed by dangerous and disruptive natural gas industry practices in their communities — particularly horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a technique where millions of gallons of water, laced with other ingredients (including, often, toxic chemicals) are pumped into rock to release gas deposits. Gradually, more and more legitimate questions were raised about the risks that fracking poses to our air, water, communities, and indeed our climate.
By the time I assumed leadership of the Club in March 2010, our view of natural gas had changed — so I made sure our policy did, too. We created a strong natural gas campaign comprised of staff and volunteer leaders. Some chapters sought to establish tough safeguards at the state and federal level to protect their air and water; others sought to suspend fracking completely until those standards were in place. By mid-August 2010, with gas industry practices and our policies increasingly in conflict, I recommended to the Board, and it agreed, to end the funding relationship between the Club and the gas industry, and all fossil fuel companies or executives.
Our position today could not be more clear: We still need to move America beyond coal, as quickly as we can while taking care of the workers in the mines and at coal-burning utilities. And as we retire these coal plants, we’ll need to replace them with as much clean energy as we possibly can. In the process, we’ll use as little gas as possible and work to ensure that the gas that is used is produced as responsibly as possible.
It’s time to stop thinking of natural gas as a “kinder, gentler” energy source. What’s more, we do not have an effective regulatory system in this country to address the risks that gas drilling poses on our health and communities. The scope of the problems from under-regulated drilling, as well as a clearer understanding of the total carbon pollution that results from both drilling and burning gas, have made it plain that, as we phase out coal, we need to leapfrog over gas whenever possible in favor of truly clean energy. Instead of rushing to see how quickly we can extract natural gas, we should be focusing on how to be sure we are using less — and safeguarding our health and environment in the meantime.
The Sierra Club opposes any natural gas development that poses unacceptable toxic risks to our land, water, and air. We insist that the volume and content of all fracking fluids and flowback should be disclosed, and that all toxics should be eliminated. There should be proper treatment, management, and disposal of both fracking fluids and toxic flowback. Fracking should not be permitted unless it can be demonstrated that drinking water is protected and that all cumulative impacts can be mitigated. And, of course, many beautiful areas and important watersheds across this country should be off-limits to drilling.
Exempting the natural gas industry from environmental protections was a terrible idea. It looks even dumber today, when the real risks that natural gas drilling poses to water supplies and critical watersheds are that much more apparent.
Ultimately, the only safe, smart, and responsible way to address our nation’s energy needs is to look beyond coal, oil, and gas, and focus on clean, efficient energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal. It’s clear to countries around the world that the most successful 21st-century economies will be based on using energy that is safe, secure, and sustainable. Let’s get to work building that economy right here at home.
Michael Brune is the Sierra Club’s executive director.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sad eyed greens bemoan Obama energy remarks

Sad eyed greens bemoan Obama energy remarks


The Green Warriors turned out to have a fairly short lived celebration after Barack Obama kicked the Keystone XL can down the road yet again. What looked like a victory for the environmental lobby was quickly thrown into a tailspin when the President gave his State of the Union address. In it, he spoke some fairly heartening words about an, “all of the above” energy policy – something we’ve been pushing for here since the beginning of his administration. Of course, whether words translate into action this year remains to be seen.
Still, those few phrases on Tuesday night were apparently enough to set off a wave of despair in some quarters. At WNYC in New York, Justin Krebs takes to his keyboard to mourn the apparent death of the green energy movement.
President Obama’s decision last week to halt the Canadian tar-sands pipeline project was the right choice for the environment, a win for environmentalists – who had staged incredible acts of civil disobedience protesting the project — and a talking point of attack for GOP candidates through the debates and South Carolina speeches that followed…
However, the Keystone Pipeline was just one very extreme front in this fight, and as environmentalists realized just a few days later, it’s not a fight that they are winning. In his State of the Union, the president showed his support for more domestic energy exploration — which many understand to include controversial franking [sic] techniques and ever-deeper and riskier oil drilling. We may have stopped one pipeline, but we haven’t changed a system that demands us to pipe more oil and natural gas further distances to power our everyday lives.
The pouting continues for some time, going on to blame the GOP for “hyperventilating” and “pounding the administration” over the failures at Solyndra. (Apparently things at the solar panel plant would have been just fine had it not been for you meddling conservative kids, Shaggy.) He then goes on to re-run the mantra that solar, wind and geothermal are ripe and ready to solve all of our problems if only Obama would act “forcefully and decisively” enough. (I assume some amount of clapping until Tinkerbell comes back to life will also be involved, but the author doesn’t specify.)
But even the “victory” portion of this diatribe may wind up being off the mark. President Obama didn’t really deliver some bold, green energy stand in nixing Keystone. He attempted a blatantly obvious political ploy, trying to have it both ways by allowing for a fresh request of the Keystone project at a later date, hoping against hope that he can somehow keep this off the front pages until after the election. If he had truly been supporting the green lobby, he would have proclaimed the pipeline to be “a bad thing” and said it wasn’t going to happen. That’s not what he did, and all the wishing in the world isn’t going to make it so.
Will we see concrete action on a new, more viable domestic energy policy this year, to the great dismay of Mr. Krebs and his friends? Anything is possible, I suppose, and if it happens I will be the first one to step up here and congratulate President Obama on his wise decision. But I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it.