Scientists Predict Increased Rain, Floods for Pennsylvania

by Walter Brasch

Pennsylvanians will experience increased rainfall and floods if data analysis by a Penn State meteorologist and long-term projections by a fisheries biologist, with a specialty in surface water pollution, are accurate.

Paul Knight, senior lecturer in meteorology at Penn State, compiled rainfall data for Pennsylvania from 1895-when recordings were first made-to this year. He says there has been an increase of 10 percent of rainfall during the past century. Until the 1970s, the average rainfall throughout the state was about 42 inches. Beginning in the 1970s, the average began creeping up. “By the 1990s, the increase was noticeable,” he says.  The three wettest years on record since 1895 were 2003, 2004, and 2011. The statewide average was 61.5 inches in 2011, the year of Tropical Storm Lee, which caused 18 deaths and about $1.6 billion in damage in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, and devastating flooding in New York and Pennsylvania, especially along the Susquehanna River basin.

Dr. Harvey Katz, of Montoursville, Pa., extended Knight’s data analysis for five decades. Dr. Katz predicts an average annual rainfall of about 55 inches, about 13 inches more than the period of 1895 to 1975. The increased rainfall isn’t limited to Pennsylvania, but extends throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England states.

Both Knight and Dr. Katz say floods will be more frequent. The industrialization and urbanization of America has led to more trees being cut down; the consequences are greater erosion and more open areas to allow rainwater to flow into streams and rivers. Waterway hazards, because of flooding and increased river flow, will cause additional problems. Heavy rains will cause increased pollution, washing off fertilizer on farmlands into the surface water supply, extending into the Chesapeake Bay. Sprays on plants and agricultural crops to reduce attacks by numerous insects, which would normally stay localized, will now be washed into streams and rivers, says Knight.

Pollution will also disrupt the aquatic ecosystem, likely leading to a decrease in the fishing industry because of increased disease and death among fish and other marine mammals, says Dr. Katz.

Another consequence of increased rainfall is a wider spread of pollution from fracking operations, especially in the Marcellus Shale.

Most of the 1,000 chemicals that can be used in drilling operations, in the concentrations used, are toxic carcinogens; because of various geological factors, each company using horizontal fracturing can use a mixture of dozens of those chemicals at any one well site to drill as much as two miles deep into the earth.

Last year, drilling companies created more than 300 billion gallons of flowback from fracking operations in the United States. (Each well requires an average of 3-5 million gallons of water, up to 100,000 gallons of chemicals, and as much as 10 tons of silica sand. Flowback is what is brought up after the initial destruction of the shale.) Most of that flowback, which once was placed in open air pits lined with plastic that can tear and leak, are now primarily placed into 22,000 gallon steel trailers, which can leak. In Pennsylvania, drillers are still allowed to mix up to 10 percent of the volume of large freshwater pits with flowback water.

In March 2013, Carizo Oil and Gas was responsible for an accidental spill of 227,000 gallons of wastewater, leading to the evacuation of four homes in Wyoming County, Pa. Two months later, a malfunction at a well, also in Wyoming County, sent 9,000 gallons of flowback onto the farm and into the basement of a nearby resident.

Rain, snow, and wind in the case of a spill can move that toxic soup into groundwater, streams, and rivers. In addition to any of dozens of toxic salts, metals, and dissolvable organic chemicals, flowback contains radioactive elements brought up from deep in the earth; among them are Uranium-238, Thorium-232, and radium, which decays into radon, one of the most radioactive and toxic gases. Radon is the second highest cause of lung cancer, after cigarettes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

A U.S. Geological Survey analysis of well samples collected in Pennsylvania and New York between 2009 and 2011 revealed that 37 of the 52 samples had Radium-226 and Radium-228 levels that were 242 times higher than the standard for drinking water. One sample, from Tioga County, Pa., was 3,609 times the federal standard for safe drinking water, and 300 times the federal industrial standard.

Radium-226, 200 times higher than acceptable background levels, was detected in Blacklick Creek, a 30-mile long tributary of the Conemaugh River near Johnstown, Pa. The radium, which had been embedded deep in the earth but was brought up in flowback waters, was part of a discharge from the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility, according to research published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Increased rainfall also increases the probability of pollution from spills from the nation’s decaying pipeline systems. About half of all oil and gas pipelines are at least a half-century old. There were more than 6,000 spills from pipelines last year. Among those spills were almost 300,000 gallons of heavy Canadian crude oil from a pipe in Arkansas, and 100,000 gallons of oil and other chemicals in Colorado.

Increased truck and train traffic to move oil and gas from the drilling fields to refineries along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts has led to increased accidents. Railroad accidents in the United States last year accounted for about 1.15 million gallons of spilled crude oil, more than all spills in the 40 years since the federal government began collecting data, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Many of the spills were in wetlands or into groundwater and streams.

A primary reason for increased rainfall (as well as increases in hurricanes, tornadoes, ocean water rises, and other long-term weather phenomenon) is because of man-made climate change, the result of increased carbon dioxide from fossil fuel extraction and burning. It’s not a myth. It’s not a far-fetched liberal hoax invented by Al Gore. About 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists agree we are experiencing climate change, and that the world is at a critical change; if the steady and predictable increase in climate change, which affects the protection of the ozone layer, is not reduced within two decades, it will not be reversible. Increased rainfall and pollution will be only a part of the global meltdown.

[Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist and emeritus professor. He is a syndicated columnist, radio commentator, and the author of 20 books, the latest of which is the critically-acclaimed Fracking Pennsylvania, an overall look at the effects of horizontal fracturing. He is a former newspaper and magazine reporter and editor and multimedia writer-producer.]

Climate Change: Impact on Pennsylvania

The White House just released its report on climate change and has issued this fact sheet on its predicted effects in Pennsylvania and the Northeast:

FACT SHEET: What Climate Change Means for Pennsylvania and the Northeast

Today, the Obama Administration released the third U.S. National Climate Assessment-the most comprehensive scientific assessment ever generated of climate change and its impacts across every region of America and major sectors of the U.S. economy. The findings in this National Climate Assessment underscore the need for urgent action to combat the threats from climate change, protect American citizens and communities today, and build a sustainable future for our kids and grandkids.

The National Climate Assessment is a key deliverable of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution, prepare America’s communities for climate-change impacts, and lead international efforts to address this global challenge. Importantly, the plan acknowledges that even as we act to reduce the greenhouse-gas pollution that is driving climate change, we must also empower the Nation’s states, communities, businesses, and decision makers with the information they need prepare for climate impacts already underway.

The Obama Administration has already taken a number of steps to deliver on that commitment to states, regions, and communities across America. In the past year alone, these efforts have included: establishing a Task Force of State, Local, and Tribal Leaders on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to advise the Administration on how the Federal Government can respond to the needs of communities nationwide that are dealing with the impacts of climate change; launching a Climate Data Initiative to bring together extensive open government data with strong commitments from the private and philanthropic sectors to develop planning and resilience tools for communities; and establishing seven new “climate hubs” across the country to help farmers and ranchers adapt their operations to a changing climate.

PENNSYLVANIA is part of the U.S. National Climate Assessment U.S. Northeast Region. The regional phenomena identified by the Assessment may not occur in every state that is part of a particular region. According to the third U.S. National Climate Assessment Highlights report:

“Sixty-four million people are concentrated in the Northeast. The high-density urban coastal corri­dor from Washington, D.C., north to Boston is one of the most developed environments in the world. It contains a massive, complex, and long-standing network of supporting infrastructure. The North­east also has a vital rural component, including large expanses of sparsely populated but ecologi­cally and agriculturally important areas.

Although urban and rural regions in the North­east are profoundly different, they both include populations that are highly vulnerable to climate hazards and other stresses. The region depends on aging infrastructure that has already been stressed by climate hazards including heat waves and heavy downpours. The Northeast has ex­perienced a greater recent increase in extreme precipitation than any other region in the U.S.; between 1958 and 2010, the Northeast saw more than a 70% percent increase in the amount of precipitation falling in very heavy events (defined as the heaviest 1% of all daily events). This increase, combined with coastal and riverine flooding due to sea level rise and storm surge, creates increased risks. For all of these reasons, public health, agriculture, transportation, commu­nications, and energy systems in the Northeast all face climate-related challenges.” (NCA Highlights, p. 70)

Regional Findings of the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment: NORTHEAST

·         “Heat waves, coastal flooding, and river flooding will pose a growing challenge to the region’s environmental, social, and economic systems. This will increase the vulnerability of the region’s residents, especially its most disadvantaged populations.

·         Infrastructure will be increasingly compromised by climate-related hazards, including sea level rise, coastal flooding, and intense precipitation events.

·         Agriculture, fisheries, and ecosystems will be increasingly compromised over the next century by climate change impacts. Farmers can explore new crop options, but these adaptations are not cost- or risk-free. Moreover, inequities exist in adaptive capacity, which could be overwhelmed by changing climate.

·         While a majority of states and a rapidly growing number of municipalities have begun to incorporate the risk of climate change into their planning activities, implementation of adaptation measures is still at early stages.” (NCA, Ch. 16: Northeast)

Selected Findings and Information from the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment Relevant to PENNSYLVANIA

·         Water: “Throughout the Northeast, populations are also concentrated along rivers and their flood plains. In mountainous regions, including much of West Virginia and large parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire, more intense precipitation events will mean greater flood risk, particularly in valleys, where people, infrastructure, and agriculture tend to be concentrated.” (Ch. 16: Northeast)

·         Energy: “Warmer winters will decrease the amount of natural gas required to heat buildings, especially in the Northeast, Midwest, and Northwest. Rising sea levels, combined with normal and potentially more intense coastal storms, an increase in very heavy precipitation events, and local land subsidence, threaten coastal energy equipment as a result of inundation, flooding, and erosion.” (NCA, Ch. 4: Energy)

·         Health: “During extreme heat events, nighttime temperatures in the region’s big cities are generally several degrees higher than surrounding regions, leading to increased heat-related death among those less able to recover from the heat of the day. Since the hottest days in the Northeast are often associated with high concentrations of ground-level ozone and other pollutants, the combination of heat stress and poor air quality can pose a major health risk to vulnerable groups: young children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions including asthma.” (NCA, Ch. 16: Northeast)

·         Heat Waves: “Extreme heat events have long threatened public health in the United States. Many cities, including St. Louis, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Cincinnati, have suffered dramatic increases in death rates during heat waves. Extreme summer heat is increasing in the United States, and climate projections indicate that extreme heat events will be more frequent and intense in coming decades. However, early action provides the largest health benefits. There is evidence that heat-health early warning systems have saved lives and money in U.S. cities like Philadelphia, PA.” (NCA, Ch. 9: Health)

·         Flood Risk: “Throughout the Northeast, populations are also concentrated along rivers and their flood plains. In mountainous regions, including much of West Virginia and large parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire, more intense precipitation events will mean greater flood risk, particularly in valleys, where people, infrastructure, and agriculture tend to be concentrated.” (NCA, Ch. 16: Northeast)

·         Adaptation: Pennsylvania has “enacted polices to encourage the use of green infrastructure and ecosystem-based approaches for managing storm water and flooding.”(NCA, Ch. 28: Adaptation)

Examples of Efforts Underway in PENNSYLVANIA to Address Climate Change

In PENNSYLVANIA, many efforts are already underway to mitigate and respond to the impacts of climate change, including:

Preparing Communities for the Consequences of Climate Change:

Many important preparedness, resilience, and adaptation efforts are already being led by local, state, and regional entities across the country. Mechanisms being used by local governments to prepare for climate change include: land-use planning; provisions to protect infrastructure and ecosystems; regulations related to the design and construction of buildings, road, and bridges; and preparation for emergency response and recovery.  These local adaptation planning and actions are unfolding in municipalities of different sizes, and regional agencies and regional aggregations of governments are also taking actions. And States have also become important actors in efforts related to climate change.

·      Mayor Michael Nutter (Philadelphia, PA) serves on the President’s State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force for Climate Preparedness and Resilience. Mayor Nutter has shown his strong commitment to sustainability though the Greenworks program which integrates sustainability work across city government. In partnership with the DOE, under Mayor Nutter’s leadership the City of Philadelphia has advanced building energy efficiency and solar programs. The Philadelphia Water Department has also worked closely with the EPA on innovative green stormwater management infrastructure. Through Greenworks Philadelphia has made progress mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and is currently working with municipal agencies on preparing for the changing climate.

Cutting Carbon Pollution in PENNSYLVANIA:

In 2012, power plants and major industrial facilities in Pennsylvania emitted more than 140 million metric tons of carbon pollution-that’s equal to the yearly pollution from more than 30 million cars. Through the Climate Action Plan and state initiatives, there are many efforts already underway to mitigate and respond to the impacts of climate change in Pennsylvania, including:

·         Investing in Clean Energy: Since President Obama took office, the U.S. increased solar-electricity generation by more than ten-fold and tripled electricity production from wind power.  In Pennsylvania, renewable energy generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources increased nearly 100 percent.  Since 2009, the Administration has supported tens of thousands of renewable energy projects throughout the country, including more than 1,154 in Pennsylvania, generating enough energy to power more than 170,000 homes and helping Pennsylvania meet its own goal of generating 18 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2021.

·         Improving Efficiency: Using less energy to power our homes, businesses and vehicles is critical to building a clean and secure energy future.  President Obama has made essential investments in research and development for energy efficiency advances, and set new standards to make the things we use every day – from cars to microwaves – more efficient.  

o     President Obama established the toughest fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles in U.S. history.  These standards will double the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks by 2025, saving the average driver more than $8,000 over the lifetime of a 2025 vehicle and cutting carbon pollution.

o     Since October 2009, the Department of Energy and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have jointly completed energy upgrades nearly two million homes across the country, saving many families more than $400 on their heating and cooling bills in the first year alone.

o     As part of the President’s Better Buildings Challenge, Pittsburgh committed to reducing energy intensity 20 percent by 2020 in 1.77 million square feet of its buildings. Allegheny College in Meadville committed to reducing intensity by the same level for its 1.3 million square feet of building space. Philadelphia Housing Authority has also committed 20 percent reduction in energy intensity by 2020 in 7.3 million square feet of buildings in its authority.  Action Housing, a multifamily residential partner, has committed to reduce energy intensity 20 percent in 10 years in 815 thousand square feet of affordable housing.

For more information about the third U.S. National Climate Assessment, please visit www.globalchange.gov or contact engagement@usgcrp.gov.

SOTU 2013

President Obama gave his State of the Union address last night and challenged Congress to go on the record about common sense gun safety legislation.  The American people are overwhelmingly supportive of such reforms following the massacre at Sandy Hook.  He also called for action on climate change though it may be too late.  His support for drone strikes, fracking and the use of deadly force against American citizens any time and any place of his choosing without due process make me glad I voted Green.  

Sen. Marco Rubio gave the Republican response and illustrated why the GOP has lost touch with reality.  While maintaining that low tax rates on the rich and small government are good for the economy he ignored all factual evidence showing the opposite.  Economists call the era after World War II until 1981 The Great Prosperity.  Never before in human history was there such expansion of economic activity, wealth across classes and huge government projects such as building the interstate highway system, going to the moon, regulation of the financial sector, food, drugs and the establishment of efforts for clean air, water and ground.  Flying in the face of reality only makes Rubio appear stupid.  Either that or he’s a bold faced liar, you decide.  The text of the President’s speech is under the fold.

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

IN THE STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS

U.S. Capitol

Washington, D.C.

9:15 P.M. EST

    THE PRESIDENT:  Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, fellow citizens:

Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this chamber that “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress.”  (Applause.) “It is my task,” he said, “to report the State of the Union — to improve it is the task of us all.”

Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report.  After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home.  (Applause.)  After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs.  We buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in 20.  (Applause.)  Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before.  (Applause.)

So, together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the State of our Union is stronger.  (Applause.)

But we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded.  Our economy is adding jobs — but too many people still can’t find full-time employment.  Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs — but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.

It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.  (Applause.)

It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country — the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, or who you love.

It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.  (Applause.)

The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem.  They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue.  But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party.  (Applause.)  They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can.  For they know that America moves forward only when we do so together, and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all.

Our work must begin by making some basic decisions about our budget — decisions that will have a huge impact on the strength of our recovery.

Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion — mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.  As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.  

Now we need to finish the job.  And the question is, how?

In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year.  These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness.  They’d devastate priorities like education, and energy, and medical research.  They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs.  That’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as the sequester, are a really bad idea.

Now, some in Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training, Medicare and Social Security benefits.  That idea is even worse.  (Applause.)

Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population.  And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms — otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations.

But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and the most powerful.  (Applause.)  We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers and more cops and more firefighters.  Most Americans — Democrats, Republicans, and independents — understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.  They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share.  And that’s the approach I offer tonight.

On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.  (Applause.)

Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs.  (Applause.)  And the reforms I’m proposing go even further.  We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors.  (Applause.)  We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital; they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.  (Applause.)  And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement.  Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep — but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.  (Applause.)

To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested, and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and the well-connected.  After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks?  How is that fair?  Why is it that deficit reduction is a big emergency justifying making cuts in Social Security benefits but not closing some loopholes?  How does that promote growth?  (Applause.)

Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit.  (Applause.)  We can get this done.  The American people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses spend less time filling out complicated forms, and more time expanding and hiring — a tax code that ensures billionaires with high-powered accountants can’t work the system and pay a lower rate than their hardworking secretaries; a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas, and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that are creating jobs right here in the United States of America.  That’s what tax reform can deliver.  That’s what we can do together.  (Applause.)

I realize that tax reform and entitlement reform will not be easy.  The politics will be hard for both sides.  None of us will get 100 percent of what we want.  But the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy, visit hardship on millions of hardworking Americans.  So let’s set party interests aside and work to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments in our future.  And let’s do it without the brinksmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors.  (Applause.)  The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next.  (Applause.)  We can’t do it.

Let’s agree right here, right now to keep the people’s government open, and pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America.  (Applause.)  The American people have worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause another.  (Applause.)

Now, most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda.  But let’s be clear, deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan.  (Applause.)  A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs — that must be the North Star that guides our efforts.  (Applause.)  Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation:  How do we attract more jobs to our shores?  How do we equip our people with the skills they need to get those jobs?  And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?

A year and a half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that independent economists said would create more than 1 million new jobs.  And I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda.  I urge this Congress to pass the rest.  (Applause.)  But tonight, I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago.  Let me repeat — nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime.  It is not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.  (Applause.)  That’s what we should be looking for.

Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing.  After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three.  Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan.  Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico.  And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.  (Applause.)

There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend.  Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio.  A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.  There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns.

So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Department of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs.  And I ask this Congress to help create a network of 15 of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made right here in America.  We can get that done.  (Applause.)

Now, if we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas.  Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy — every dollar.  Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s.  They’re developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries 10 times more powerful.  Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation.  Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race.  We need to make those investments.  (Applause.)

Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.  After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future.  We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years.  (Applause.)  We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar — with tens of thousands of good American jobs to show for it.  We produce more natural gas than ever before — and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it.  And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.  (Applause.)  Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend.  But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15.  Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods — all are now more frequent and more intense.  We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence.  Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it’s too late.  (Applause.)

Now, the good news is we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth.  I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.  But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.  (Applause.)  I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it.  And we’ve begun to change that.  Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America.  So let’s generate even more.  Solar energy gets cheaper by the year — let’s drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all in on clean energy, so must we.

Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence.  We need to encourage that.  And that’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.  (Applause.)  That’s got to be part of an all-of-the-above plan.  But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and our water.

In fact, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together.  So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.  If a nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we.  Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.

I’m also issuing a new goal for America:  Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years.  (Applause.)  We’ll work with the states to do it.  Those states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen.

America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair.  Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire — a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and Internet; high-tech schools, self-healing power grids.  The CEO of Siemens America — a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina — said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs.  And that’s the attitude of a lot of companies all around the world.  And I know you want these job-creating projects in your district.  I’ve seen all those ribbon-cuttings. (Laughter.)

So tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. (Applause.)  And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most:  modern ports to move our goods, modern pipelines to withstand a storm, modern schools worthy of our children.  (Applause.)  Let’s prove that there’s no better place to do business than here in the United States of America, and let’s start right away.  We can get this done.

And part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector.  The good news is our housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007.  Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years.  Home purchases are up nearly 50 percent, and construction is expanding again.

But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected.  Too many families who never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no.  That’s holding our entire economy back.  We need to fix it.

Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates.  Democrats and Republicans have supported it before, so what are we waiting for? Take a vote, and send me that bill.  (Applause.)  Why would we be against that?  (Applause.)  Why would that be a partisan issue, helping folks refinance?  Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home.  What’s holding us back?  Let’s streamline the process, and help our economy grow.

These initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, housing — all these things will help entrepreneurs and small business owners expand and create new jobs.  But none of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs.  (Applause.)

And that has to start at the earliest possible age.  Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road.  But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program.  Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for a private preschool.  And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives.  So tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America.  (Applause.)  That’s something we should be able to do.

Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on — by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.  In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own.  We know this works.  So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.  (Applause.)

Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job.  Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges.  So those German kids, they’re ready for a job when they graduate high school.  They’ve been trained for the jobs that are there.  Now at schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools and City University of New York and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in computers or engineering.

We need to give every American student opportunities like this.  (Applause.)

And four years ago, we started Race to the Top — a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, all for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year.  Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.  And we’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math — the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill the jobs that are there right now and will be there in the future.

Now, even with better high schools, most young people will need some higher education.  It’s a simple fact the more education you’ve got, the more likely you are to have a good job and work your way into the middle class.  But today, skyrocketing costs price too many young people out of a higher education, or saddle them with unsustainable debt.

Through tax credits, grants and better loans, we’ve made college more affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years.  But taxpayers can’t keep on subsidizing higher and higher and higher costs for higher education.  Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure that they do.  (Applause.)

So tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid.  (Applause.) And tomorrow, my administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria — where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.  

Now, to grow our middle class, our citizens have to have access to the education and training that today’s jobs require.  But we also have to make sure that America remains a place where everyone who’s willing to work — everybody who’s willing to work hard has the chance to get ahead.

Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants.  (Applause.)  And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, faith communities — they all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  (Applause.)  Now is the time to do it.  Now is the time to get it done.  Now is the time to get it done.  (Applause.)

Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my administration has already made — putting more boots on the Southern border than at any time in our history and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship — a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.  (Applause.)  

And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.  (Applause.)  

In other words, we know what needs to be done.  And as we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts.  So let’s get this done.  Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away.  And America will be better for it.  (Applause.)  Let’s get it done.  Let’s get it done.

But we can’t stop there.  We know our economy is stronger when our wives, our mothers, our daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence.  Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago.  And I now urge the House to do the same.  (Applause.)  Good job, Joe.  And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.  (Applause.)

We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages.  But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year.  Even with the tax relief we put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line.  That’s wrong.  That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, 19 states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.

Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour.  (Applause.) We should be able to get that done.  (Applause.)

This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families.  It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead.  For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets.  And a whole lot of folks out there would probably need less help from government.  In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher.  So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year — let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.  (Applause.)

Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it is virtually impossible to get ahead.  Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up.  Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job.  America is not a place where the chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny.  And that’s why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.

Let’s offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will give them a chance anymore. Let’s put people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in run-down neighborhoods.  And this year, my administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet.  We’ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, and education, and housing.

We’ll give new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest.  And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and do more to encourage fatherhood — because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.  And we want to encourage that.  We want to help that. (Applause.)

Stronger families.  Stronger communities.  A stronger America.  It is this kind of prosperity — broad, shared, built on a thriving middle class — that has always been the source of our progress at home.  It’s also the foundation of our power and influence throughout the world.

Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who sacrifice every day to protect us.  Because of them, we can say with confidence that America will complete its mission in Afghanistan and achieve our objective of defeating the core of al Qaeda.  (Applause.)

Already, we have brought home 33,000 of our brave servicemen and women.  This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead.  Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan.  This drawdown will continue and by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.  (Applause.)  

Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change.  We’re negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions — training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counterterrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.

Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self.  (Applause.)  It’s true, different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged — from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa.  The threat these groups pose is evolving.  But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad or occupy other nations.  Instead, we’ll need to help countries like Yemen, and Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali.  And where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.  (Applause.)

Now, as we do, we must enlist our values in the fight.  That’s why my administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism efforts.  Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts.  I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word for it that we’re doing things the right way.  So in the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.  (Applause.)

Of course, our challenges don’t end with al Qaeda.  America will continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons.  The regime in North Korea must know they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations.  Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only further isolate them, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.

Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon. (Applause.)

At the same time, we’ll engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals, and continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands — because our ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead and meet our obligations.

America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks.  (Applause.)  Now, we know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private emails.  We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets.  Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air traffic control systems.  We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.

And that’s why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy.  (Applause.)

But now Congress must act as well, by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks.  This is something we should be able to get done on a bipartisan basis.  (Applause.)

Now, even as we protect our people, we should remember that today’s world presents not just dangers, not just threats, it presents opportunities.  To boost American exports, support American jobs and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership.  And tonight, I’m announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union — because trade that is fair and free across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.  (Applause.)

We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all — not only because it creates new markets, more stable order in certain regions of the world, but also because it’s the right thing to do.  In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day.  So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades by connecting more people to the global economy; by empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve, and helping communities to feed, and power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation, which is within our reach.  (Applause.)  

You see, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change.  I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon, in Burma, when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American President into the home where she had been imprisoned for years; when thousands of Burmese lined the streets, waving American flags, including a man who said, “There is justice and law in the United States.  I want our country to be like that.”

In defense of freedom, we’ll remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia.  In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy.  (Applause.)

We know the process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt, but we can — and will — insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people.  We’ll keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian.  And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace.  (Applause.)

These are the messages I’ll deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month.  And all this work depends on the courage and sacrifice of those who serve in dangerous places at great personal risk — our diplomats, our intelligence officers, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.  As long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those who serve their country abroad, and we will maintain the best military the world has ever known.  (Applause.)

We’ll invest in new capabilities, even as we reduce waste and wartime spending.  We will ensure equal treatment for all servicemembers, and equal benefits for their families — gay and straight.  (Applause.)  We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters and moms, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat.

We will keep faith with our veterans, investing in world-class care, including mental health care, for our wounded warriors — (applause) — supporting our military families; giving our veterans the benefits and education and job opportunities that they have earned.  And I want to thank my wife, Michelle, and Dr. Jill Biden for their continued dedication to serving our military families as well as they have served us. Thank you, honey.  Thank you, Jill.  (Applause.)

Defending our freedom, though, is not just the job of our military alone.  We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home.  That includes one of the most fundamental right of a democracy:  the right to vote.  (Applause.)  When any American, no matter where they live or what their party, are denied that right because they can’t afford to wait for five or six or seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals.  (Applause.)

So tonight, I’m announcing a nonpartisan commission to improve the voting experience in America.  And it definitely needs improvement.  I’m asking two long-time experts in the field — who, by the way, recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign — to lead it.  We can fix this, and we will.  The American people demand it, and so does our democracy.  (Applause.)

Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource:  our children.  It has been two months since Newtown.  I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence.  But this time is different.  Overwhelming majorities of Americans — Americans who believe in the Second Amendment — have come together around common-sense reform, like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun.  (Applause.)  Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.  Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because these police chiefs, they’re tired of seeing their guys and gals being outgunned.

Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress.  (Applause.)  Now, if you want to vote no, that’s your choice.  But these proposals deserve a vote.  Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun — more than a thousand.

One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton.  She was 15 years old.  She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss.  She was a majorette.  She was so good to her friends they all thought they were her best friend.  Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration.  And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.

Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence.  They deserve a vote.  They deserve a vote.  (Applause.)  Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.  (Applause.)  The families of Newtown deserve a vote.  (Applause.) The families of Aurora deserve a vote.  (Applause.)  The families of Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence — they deserve a simple vote.  (Applause.)  They deserve a simple vote.

Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country.  In fact, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight.  But we were never sent here to be perfect.  We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.

We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way they look out for one another, every single day, usually without fanfare, all across this country.  We should follow their example.

We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez.  When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, she wasn’t thinking about how her own home was faring. Her mind was on the 20 precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe.

    We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor.  When Desiline arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours.  And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say.  And hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line to support her — because Desiline is 102 years old.  (Applause.)  And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read, “I voted.” (Applause.)

We should follow the example of a police officer named Brian Murphy.  When a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and Brian was the first to arrive, he did not consider his own safety.  He fought back until help arrived and ordered his fellow officers to protect the safety of the Americans worshiping inside, even as he lay bleeding from 12 bullet wounds.  And when asked how he did that, Brian said, “That’s just the way we’re made.”

That’s just the way we’re made.  We may do different jobs and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us.  But as Americans, we all share the same proud title — we are citizens.  It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status.  It describes the way we’re made.  It describes what we believe.  It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter of our American story.

Thank you.  God bless you, and God bless these United States of America.  (Applause.)

                       END            

 

Bailing Out Climate Change Deniers

The Agriculture Department announced new measures this week to aid drought stricken farmers in the Midwest.  It allows hay and pasture use in public lands for additional counties hit hard by climate change.  Scientists told Congress this week that global warming is accelerating to such an extent that it has moved baselines.  In other words, the definitions of what is “normal” are moving.  As the world heats up we’re seeing even more powerful weather patterns emerge:  storms, flooding, drought, wildfires, etc.

The red states in America’s heartland have kept electing radical conservatives like James Inhofe who refuse to accept the reality of the science.  They prefer to seize on a narrow definition of the word “trick” in a Penn State professor’s email years ago instead of accepting the fact the word has multiple definitions and, in the context used,  doesn’t mean what they thought.  Meanwhile now the Midwest is burning up as Texas did a year ago.  Crops are failing and ranchers are sending herds to the slaughterhouse because there isn’t ins’t enough feed.

Farmers are like foolish gamblers flocking to casinos who double down on bad bets.  They keep voting red in spite of the fact the policies espoused by the representatives are destroying their farms and their lives.  They’ll do it again this year even as their crops fail and they ask taxpayers to bail them out.  These die hard “free market” aficionados scream for socialized bailouts when their own votes destroy their farms instead of accepting personal responsibility for their failures.

In a true free market we’d allow them to fail and let the market replace them with smarter, more progressive thinkers.  If voting Republican for decades resulted in their losing their shirts and they then double down on their bet don’t they deserve to lose?  This is no different than how we bailed out Wall Street then allowed them to go and do it all over again.  Stupid is as stupid does as the movie says.  Why are we, as taxpayers, doubling down again on these losers?  End the subsidies and bailouts for farmers who sowed the seeds of their own failure backing idiots in Washington and allow their “free market” to restore some sanity.  

These folks cannot claim to hold these ideological beliefs so dear then abandon them as soon as climate change devastates their livelihoods.  It isn’t like no one saw this coming.  The computer models on climate change have been scarily accurate.  Greenland has melted for crying out loud, seas are rising, the Arctic ice is largely gone and these morons still go around claiming that 97% of the world’s scientists have been wrong.  They want to have their cake and eat it too, at our expense.

The catastrophic costs of climate change are beginning to sink in and it isn’t pretty.  There’s no way we’ll ever be able to cover all the losses so let’s not begin now.  Arguments that doing something would cost jobs and hurt the economy were funded by the oil, gas and coal industries.  They brainwashed these fools into believing their propaganda and now that the shit is hitting the fan they want us to pay up.  I say no.  

Instead of continuing to pay billions in fossil fuel subsidies they screamed that clean, renewable energy firms like Solyndra got some and failed.  In reality we should have been eliminating all fossil fuel welfare programs and shifted those to clean energy as Obama has tried to do.  These Red State farmers objected, elected obstructionists and now their own failures at the polls are costing them their crops and farms.  I say good riddance, your own stupidity and gullibility has brought you down.  Let’s allow new people to go onto your abandoned farms, practice better judgment and move forward, if at all possible at this late date.

Unfortunately the rest of us are paying higher food prices, dealing with future shortages and, perhaps, famine because of the stupidity of the red states.  Let them turn blue from failure.  If you really believe in free markets let the market take you down.

Skeptic Comes Around on Climate Change

With 97% of the world’s scientists already on board about the perils posed by global climate warming one of the last prominent holdouts has come around.  Professor Richard Muller, in a study financed by the Koch Brothers, strayed from their anti-science doctrine and announced it is real and caused by humans.

Climate change deniers have formed their own, small, Flat Earth Society with massive funding from energy billionaires to brainwash America that science is evil and cannot be trusted.  ExxonMobil, the Koch Brothers and other hugely rich financiers have a stake in the argument:  their vast profits from the burning of fossil fuels.  They argue we cannot afford to cut back severely on the use of fossil fuels and that doing so will adversely affect the American way of life.

Yes, it will.  Yes, it will be expensive and hurt the economy but the alternative is the extinction of homo sapiens.  As we destroy our planet the survival of our species is at risk.  Are we really stupid enough to sit around doing nothing and die off because we allowed some idiot billionaires to convince us not to do what must be done?  In the U.S. the answer to that question, so far, is yes.

The conversion of Prof. Muller is important if it convinces some of the brainwashed masses they’re wrong.  Is it too late?  The drought in the Midwest and the wildfires say it might be.  No one knows if we’ve passed the tipping point where nothing we do will change the path we’ve set for our future.  Some people are afraid the tipping point has passed.  All we can do is wait and see.  I fear for the next generation and what they face because we did nothing.

News & Notes July 1, 2012

The blog became a victim of global warming when Friday night’s severe storm knocked us offline.  As bad as this storm was here it paled in comparison to what our southern neighbors felt.  Delaware, Maryland and Virginia were hit extremely hard.  Thirteen people lost their lives and millions their power.  How much extreme weather must we tolerate, how much property damage, lives and time lost before we address this most critical of issues?

I’m fed up with all this hate speech directed at teachers, police and firefighters.  When CEO’s earn 343 times as much as the average workers the outrage should be that these dedicated public servants aren’t paid enough.  America’s priorities are all screwed up.  People go hungry while we expend close to $1 trillion/year for defense.  This is inexcusable.

Gov. gasbag signed a budget late last night averting an embarrassing predicament:  total GOP control of state government but unable to pass a budget on time.  The compromise hurts the poor and children at the expense of corporations.  Shell gets billions while the elderly, poor and young get the shaft.

I love Sen. Bernie Sanders.  In this video he talks about the economy:

Former State Rep and Rendell Revenue Secretary Steve Stetler was the final defendant convicted in BonusGate.  As important as it was to ferret out corruption protecting boys from Jerry Sandusky should have been the higher priority.

Sen. John Pippy resigned his seat following passage of the budget last night.  In the race to succeed him one candidate has stepped down.

As part of the flurry of votes to end the state fiscal year Gov. Gasbag’s failed former Chief of Staff landed softly as the Senate approved his appointment to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County.  In doing so other vacancies were also filled and the Senate somehow found money to pay for them.  There still isn’t any money for poor, disabled people, those with developmental disabilities or other needy Pennsylvanians but Corbett’s buddy gets paid.

In the wake of his decision upholding ObamaCare Chief Justice Roberts joked about his trip to Malta being an escape to an impregnable fortress.  The Tea Party types might be able to scale even those walls in their fury.  If they try we should go put vaseline all over them and watch the Tea bagger “patriots” slip into the sea.

News & Notes June 25, 2012

The Supreme Court ruling on ObamaCare is expected today.  Consensus seems to be that the Roberts Court will strike it down.  So far this court has backed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 100% on its rulings.  Elections do have consequences.

Focus on SCOTUS is increasing as the result of the total corruption of our democracy because of Citizens United.  When 30 billionaires can funnel a billion dollars into a single campaign we no longer have a democracy.  Meanwhile Justices Alito and Thomas are getting heavy criticism for their purely partisan work.  Clarence Thomas’ wife works for a think tank opposing the Affordable Care Act.  His household gets money from those working to strike down the law.  

Fast & Furious continues being a focus of the news.  The failed program begun under George W. Bush ran guns into Mexico in the hope they could be tracked.  It failed.  Concern and outrage by the Right is missing the larger issue:  the huge flow of guns from this country into Mexico fueling the rampant violence and destabilization.

The student loan interest rate issue and a transportation bill both need to be passed this week.  Is the Tea Party House capable of passing anything meaningful and progressive?

A disturbing article about a Justice Department suit against two polygamous towns is required reading.  Polygamy is illegal and residents of these Utah/Arizona border towns are openly discriminating against their non-polygamous residents to the point of destroying their crops and killing their dogs.

East coast sea levels are rising due to global warming.  How much evidence do morons need before they stop believing what they hear from Rush and Fox?  The oil companies are fueling this denial so they can continue destroying the planet for profit.  Imagine the chaos if tens of millions of people are displaced all along the east coast?  How much will that cost?

It’s time for an increase in the minimum wage.  Low wage workers are actually earning less than thirty years ago due to inflation.  Places like Santa Fe which have living wage minimum wages prove that higher wages don’t mean fewer jobs.  The business community constantly rolls out this debunked argument when the issue comes up for votes.  In Santa Fe, where the minimum wage is now $10.29 they now have more people working in the hospitality sector, a center of low wage workers, than before 2008.  Their high minimum wage has not affected employment.

A Philadelphia jury convicted Msg. William Lynn of child endangerment last Friday.  Two landmark child molestation trials ended in Pennsylvania on the same day, both with convictions.  The Catholic Church must pay for its disregard of morality.  Penn State’s mistake wa snot shuttling Sandusky from campus to campus to better hide his abuses.  It worked for the Church for decades after all.

Voters keep electing car dealers to Congress then are mystified when the corrupt businessmen become corrupt Congressmen.  Have you ever dealt with an honest car dealer?  There’s no such thing.  The latest is Florida’s Vern Buchanan.  At least this corrupt Buchanan isn’t from Pennsylvania but we have our own car dealer in Congress:  Mike Kelly in PA-03.  Before that we had Don Sherwood in PA-11 who lost after getting caught choking his mistress.

I come from a family of teachers.  My Mom was a special education teacher, a sister is a college professor, another a retired guidance counselor and two more teach in local high schools.  When I hear idiots complaining about teachers it makes my blood boil.  They have no idea how hard these jobs are, especially nowadays.  Kids who have no interest in learning because their parents fail to instill a love of it in them when young challenge every teacher.  Would you want your job dependent on such kids?  Teachers are vastly underpaid when CEO’s earn billions.  Here’s a suggestion on how to pay teachers, gotta love it.

There are so many important areas being cut by Gov. gasbag so he can shell out tax credits to energy companies it’s hard to keep up with all of them.  The Times-Tribune covers how cuts are affecting day care centers.

Congratulations to new AFSCME leaders Lee Saunders (President) and Laura Reyes (Sec-Treasurer).  Saunders succeeds Jerry McEntee who retired after a good tenure.

In yet another tragic shooting of a Black kid by an angry white man are we entering into a race war where White men are openly killing African-Americans?  This seems to have been the real motivation for Stand Your Ground laws.

Fox News is so stupid not only can’t they get facts straight (of course they don’t want to when they can just make them up) but they can’t even get people right.  In their latest flub they showed a picture of Gov. Mitch Daniels instead of Jerry Sandusky.  It may be a freudian slip though since Daniels is screwing Indiana the same way Jerry screwed his kids.

The Supreme Court did strike down Arizona’s “papers please” anti-immigration law this morning.  But they also struck down Montana’s law against unlimited corporate money in politics.  This is a double down on Citizens United.  From the Brennan Center For Justice:

“The 2012 elections make one thing clear: unlimited spending by super PACs and secretive nonprofits is corrupting our political process and threatens to swamp our democracy,” said Adam Skaggs, senior counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “Increasing numbers of Americans believe our government is bought and paid for by special interests and that their votes don’t matter. By not taking this case, the Court missed a critical opportunity to rein in some of the worst excesses of Citizens United, and other rulings, that created this super PAC mess.”

Montana banned corporate election spending for more than 100 years as a result of a dramatic history of efforts by big companies to capture the state government. The state of Montana compiled an extensive and powerful factual record that demonstrated how unlimited corporate spending previously held the state hostage to mining companies and still poses severe threats to Montana’s elections and government. For the Court to strike down the state’s anti-corruption law without even reviewing that record is a serious mistake.

News & Notes August 27, 2011

As the east coast braces for Hurricane Irene I’m monitoring things as well as I can from Santa Fe.  The advantage of being here is my power won’t go out and I can monitor FEMA and news sources for the latest information.  I’ll do my best over the weekend to provide information.  If you have news and information let me know and I’ll get it out there.

It’s rained every day since I arrived in northern New Mexico which is very unusual.  This is the high desert and climate change has been effecting the southwest quite significantly.  These storms break a severe drought and are quite welcome to the residents and Native Americans.  

I met a couple from Los Alamos yesterday whom I knew from our Democratic Talk Radio facebook group.  It’s so nice to put faces with names and actually get to know people.  I’m trying to do some work while here on shale gas fracking.  It’s been going on out west for years and I’d like to learn what the longer term effects are on the environment.  Larry and Shirley Jeffreys are steering me to some people in Santa Fe with whom I can meet.

FEMA seems to be managing preparations for Irene pretty well. They have been conducting news conferences and sent people into the projected path of the storm ahead of time to deal with the aftereffects.  Following just days after the 5.8 earthquake this is a double whammy for the region.  Meanwhile Eric Cantor is insisting on more federal cuts in exchange for disaster aid.  Since the epicenter of the quake was in his own district there is no larger evidence of the need for him to go.  Government exists to provide disaster aid in the event of major events and if he cannot even support disaster aid for his own District his constituents need to elect a new Congressman.

Speaking of weather, drought and climate change Texas Governor Rick Perry said this in New Hampshire this week:

“I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data, so that they will have dollars rolling into their, to their projects,”

Al Gore responded back saying most scientists have no financial gain by calling for action about the issue.  He’s correct as most of them are academics.  If they owned companies who stood to gain financially from their work that would be a conflict of interest and cloud anything they said.  Sort of like the climate change deniers who are funded by ExxonMobil (to the tune of $18 billion) and other energy companies who do actually have a financial interest in denying the science.  They do have a conflict of interest and Perry apparently is too stupid top comprehend this fact just like he’s too stupid to understand the science.

The more we learn about Perry the more radical he is and we don’t need another radical Texas Governor in the White House.  Texas is being hit with severe high temperatures and drought this year due to climate change yet he thinks the solution is a prayer meeting.

Another closeted gay Republican surfaced this week when Puerto Rican Senator Roberto Arango. was outed by Gawker for explicit pictures he posted on the smartphone gay hookup site Grindr.  I love the sarcastic commentary in their article.

Congressman Tom Marino was targeted with a mock funeral in Williamsport over the death of jobs:

Republican Members of Congress are now charging the public to attend their events in a total effort to keep the people from expressing their concern and outrage over recent votes.  If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.

The White House is moving towards approving the controversial tar sands pipeline in the face of a continuous protest about running an oil line straight down the country from Canada to Texas.  With a straight face they are saying there’s minimal environmental risk.  One more reason not to vote for Barack Obama next year.

Random Thoughts on Another Trek

Four days on the road gives you many observations as one travels across two thirds of America.  Beginning my journey on a Saturday morning meant I had very little traffic with which to deal.  I sailed through our Keystone State and noted some closed rest areas.  This is happening everywhere as states cut budgets.  I’m not sure how many rest areas I passed were shut down but it was many.  This creates a real hazard for motorists.  I hit Columbus, Ohio, as planned, after the Ohio State game began and hit my hotel in Dayton much earlier than last time.  As you might recall a jacknifed truck cost me several hours in June.  I’m not sure why I can’t find a decent place to stay in western Ohio, it may be there aren’t many.  Each place had a pet fee but aside from that traveling with dogs was no problem.

I got through Indianapolis Sunday morning well before the Colts game and driving through southern Indiana and Illinois is tedious.  There is NOTHING to see but flat expanses of farm country speckled with an oil rig here and there.  Then you cross the Mississippi at St. Louis and see that giant Arch over the river welcoming you to the west.  Again, I arrived during the Rams game so there was very little traffic.  As long as one plans their fall trip around football driving is easy.  The freeways around St. Louis were as empty as they were in Indy.  From there it was still a long haul to Springfield, that night’s destination.  It rained intermittently that entire day and I was very relieved to get to La Quinta Inn.  I’ve never stayed at one and this was very nice.  I relaxed in the spa across the hall from my room and had a nice breakfast in the morning.  At that point I had 1100 miles under my belt.

The dogs were extremely nice, loving and experienced travelers.  I think it helped that we were in their owner’s car but I speculated if they wondered “who is this man and where is he taking us?”  Walking them gave me a nice chance to stretch my legs every day.  We bonded nicely but I was no substitute for their Mommy when we got to Santa Fe and they jumped at the sight of her.  I’m just chopped liver now, lol.

Oklahoma was greener than I remembered in June but offered very little in cuisine.  The rest area option was McDonald’s and…nothing.  Those who know me know I hate fast food.  I found a chicken club on the menu and was glad I packed a bunch of energy bars.  Monday was clear and bright as we sailed along at the posted 75 mph speed limit.  Even at that speed it takes eight hours to cross Oklahoma.  I ran into some traffic through Tulsa and Ok City then hit the broad expanse of prairie towards Texas.  We spent that night in Elk City where the chef at the Clarion has no idea what medium rare means.  Those $20 baked potato and green beans really burned me.  I had breakfast in Amarillo, a city you definitely want to miss if at all possible.

Since I’d hit the tourist spots along Route 66 on the June trip I continued on and spent all day going west towards Albuquerque.  The towns are few and far between, nothing but prairie and then desert.  Most of the time there were no other vehicles in sight.  Many of the rest areas were closed and I saw quite a few people pulled over on the shoulder relieving themselves.  I pulled off at one exit for gas and found a lone building, old and rustic, with old fashioned pumps.  A German Shepherd lounged outside the door until a black and white cat came along and took the spot.  I pumped 420 and continued to New Mexico Route 285.  This was the first time in four days I was going north.  The two lane road was posted 65 mph and it was forty miles until I encountered an intersection or building.  This is very soothing and relaxed driving, I could feel myself unwinding as the Rocky Mountains came into sight before me.  We coasted in The City Different and I handed Zombie and Lou Lou to their excited Mom.  The 14 year old Lab took one look at Linda and jumped over the Element’s tailgate in joy.   It only took me an hour to miss those two dogs.

I crossed many rivers on my trip and aside from the Ohio and Mississippi they looked like dry beds.  I’ve never seen such massive drought before, especially considering I went 1900 miles.  In Oklahoma they were nothing more than mud holes.  Climate change is having a severe effect on the Southwest and it is very obvious.  I’m not sure where the water will come from after weeing what is left of the Canadian River which flows (not any more though) through the Texas panhandle and Oklahoma.  It is the main source of water for that region.  This must be a wake up for action.

Coal Barons Meeting Today in Hopes of Ending All Climate Debate for a Generation

( – promoted by John Morgan)

Today, a bunch of coal executives are congregating for the WestVirginia Coal Association annual meeting at the luxurious Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV. One of the primary things they will discuss is the formation of a 527 to take out candidates who may support a climate change bill. As Roger Nicholson of the International Coal Group alluded, the coal barons are psyched that they will FINALLY get their voices heard thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling that basically allows them to buy Congressional seats.

This kind of news just makes me sick – especially since these are the guys who have scarred WV’s land and abused her people. We don’t need to wonder what is driving some Senators to oppose popular legislation that would, in one fell swoop, create millions of jobs, strengthen U.S. national security, defund unsavory regimes and protect our environment from earth-scorching carbon pollution. Follow the money.

Clean energy and climate legislation didn’t make it through the U.S. Senate this summer, despite the overwhelming scientific and economic evidence, and despite the fact that there almost certainly were more than 50 (aka, a “majority” of) Senators willing to vote for such legislation. First and foremost among those reasons, of course, was the near-unanimous opposition by Republicans to move ahead in this area. In addition, there were several Democrats, mostly from states with coal interests, who were probable “no” votes – and the money helps paint the picture about why.

As the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Pete Altman points out, “Next time someone asks why climate legislation is so difficult to move forward, point them this way. Peabody Energy and Arch Coal are prime examples of how narrow special interests can operate in stealth mode to deny climate science and to put the brakes on climate legislation.” How do Peabody and Arch buy influence in Washington, DC? Very simple – money. Lots and lots of money funneled into influencing policy and policymakers. For instance:

— “In 2008 and 2009, Arch Coal ($3.04 million) and Peabody Coal ($14.2 million) spent a combined $17.9 million in direct federal lobbying on energy, environmental and other matters.”

— “The two companies contributed $5 million each to the budget of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (“ACCCE”) in 2008, and presumably have continued to keep their memberships current with contributions in 2009 and 2010.”

According to Open Secrets, in 2010 alone Arch Coal has donated $39,500 to Democratic members of Congress and $88,000 to Republican members of Congress. For its part, Peabody Coal has contributed $53,400 to Democrats and $45,400 to Republicans.

I could go on all day about the money flowing to Congress from corporations and PACs with an interest in killing clean energy and climate legislation, but I’m sure you get the picture by now. Despite the overwhelming benefits this legislation would bring to the vast majority of Americans, as well as to the U.S. economy and our national security, a few wealthy companies, driven by nothing more than greed, have spent lavishly to make sure none of this happens. And so far, they’ve succeeded.  The question is:  will we let them continue to do so?  Personally, my answer is no way!