Get Off the Gas

Now that the confetti has settled a bit on the biofuels party, perhaps we can return to reason.

The US use of grain for fuel ethanol is projected to be 55 million tons, more than one-fifth of the 2006 corn harvest. It will produce a very small part of US fuel needs. This while world grain reserves have declined to less than 57 days. Agricultural production is being impacted by three main problems: 1) The major producers, the US, China and India, are running out of water. 2) Population growth, although slowing, continues at 70 million a year, while the earth's population, and its demand for food, is far past sustainable limits, which are between 500 million and 1.5 billion at a US standard of living. 3) Global warming has put agriculture in a bind. Crops in tropical and sub-tropical countries such as India are within one degree of their temperature limit. With another one degree rise in average temperature we can expect catastrophic crop failures. Also, elsewhere, for each one degree rise above the historical average during the growing season we can expect a 10% decline in grain yields. I got most of this data from Lester Brown's Earth Policy Institute (earth-policy.org).

Green plants are on average 2% efficient in their use of sunlight. A very few are 5% efficient. Switchgrass and sugar cane are no doubt better than corn for ethanol production. However, they're still constrained by that 2% efficiency limit.

Today's solar panels are 17% efficient. Waiting for investment in mass production are 34%-efficient panels. With mass production and the use of silicon ribbon and other improved technologies production costs could be cut in half. Twice the efficiency for half the cost is a three-fourths reduction in the cost of panels that could produce 17 times as much energy from the same farm fields as corn during the growing season, and still more the rest of the year.

A program, Dimming the Sun, was shown on PBS 4/l8/06. It reported that research had confirmed that for a very long time, due to vast amounts of particulates put out by industry, agriculture and aircraft, the earth has received about 3% less energy from the sun than would otherwise be the case, suppressing and masking the greenhouse effect. But now it's breaking through. Moreover, the particulates have caused so many health problems that we're cleaning them up, here in the US for some time, and now in India and China. Therefore temperatures will rise much faster from here on, soon putting them about a century ahead of the former schedule. Even worse, says Scientific American, the oceans have absorbed about half the C02, becoming quite acid. Therefore foraminifera -- tiny shelled plankton -- and similar organisms can't make their shells and are dying. They are a major support for all marine food chains.

EPI's warning: Either we eliminate all human-sourced greenhouse emissions worldwide in less than 10 years or global warming will be uncontrollable, causing the ongoing mass extinctions event to run to completion in about 20 years. Worse, immense deposits of frozen methane hydrates are embedded in tundras and in shallow seabeds. They contain more energy than all the earth's fossil fuels combined. And methane is 17 times as powerful a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. They're warming. If they're released there'll be an immediate mass extinction, probably including humanity. The methane won't only raise the earth's temperature, acting as a greenhouse gas; it will also oxidize, releasing immense heat. In doing that it'll release carbon dioxide and water.

Meanwhile the US goes bankrupt after 61 years of wars so that corporations can make bigger profits and take the capital we've all given them as profits to other countries so they can screw the American worker. And no one's minding the store.

This is one helluva time to have children.

John Doscher
Lockwood, N.Y.


Grant's Popularity

The 8/1-15/06 issue carries a fascinating and important column [by Nathan Newman] about President Ulysses Grant's excellent civil rights record. I enjoyed it and learned a lot. However, the column says Grant is the only president to be elected by a majority of the voting population, in the period after Andrew Jackson and before Franklin D. Roosevelt. However, President William McKinley got 51% of the popular vote in 1896, and 51.69% in 1900.

Richard Winger
San Francisco, Calif.

Nathan Newman replies: I believe the sentence read "Grant was the only president to be elected by a majority of the voting population for a full two terms in the hundred years between Andrew Jackson and Franklin Roosevelt." McKinley didn't serve two full terms, although his actual elections are marks of the next high point of Republican popularity. My point was both his popularity and the relative paucity of Presidents serving a full eight years in that period.


Obama Not Progressive

While reading the [9/1/06] edition of The Progressive Populist, I was dismayed to see that you had written yet another article puffing up Barack Obama as some sort of progressive savior-in-waiting. I've seen several articles like this in recent months, mostly written by people from outside Illinois who had been mesmerized by his public speaking without noticing his Senate voting record.

He started his Senate career last year by defying the Democratic leadership and voting for Bush's "tort reform" bill, which makes it harder for injured victims to collect damages from insurance and drug companies. Then, he showed us his idea of health care reform by introducing a bill that would give government subsidies to General Motors to try to bribe them to make fuel efficient cars and prevent them from abandoning their pension obligations. When Russ Feingold asked the Senate to censure Bush for violating the 4th Amendment rights of thousands of Americans, Sen, Obama ran the other way, saying that it was a "matter for the courts". He also found time to go to Connecticut to raise funds for his pal Joe Lieberman in his race against progressive challenger (and now Senate nominee) Ned Lamont. Just a few weeks ago, he was one of a small handful of Democrats to vote for a Republican-sponsored free trade agreement with Oman, a nation where labor unions are illegal.

He may talk the talk of a progressive, but his voting record proves that he certainly does not walk the walk.

Steve McGuire
Galena, Ill.


National Health

It is noteworthy that Richard Nixon, in the early '70s, proposed national health insurance and was accused of being too liberal. This debate has gone on for almost 100 years starting with Teddy Roosevelt. It is clear that Health Care for All is on the minds of Progressive Populists, the nation and even some members of Congress. This should be a nonpartisan issue as it impacts both labor and corporate America and has created an unlevel economic playing field. The GM story need not be repeated yet again. We have lost our global competitive edge due to the burden of health care costs which has left 46 million uninsured, and 50 million more under insured.

It's just a matter of time before corporate America realizes and embraces single payer; it is in its own best interest.

We now see stirrings in a handful of states who are introducing health care bills. There is the Massachusetts bill, the Vermont bill, the Rep. Pete Stark bill, the Sen. Kennedy bill, and recently announced, the Sen. Russ Feingold bill. The best bill of the bunch is HR 676, which would be publically administered and privately delivered, a single payer bill; expanding and improving medicare for all. This bill is doable and affordable and would save our nation $286 billion per year as reported by Physicians For A National Health Plan. HR 676 is cosponsored by Rep. John Conyers Jr., Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Rep. Jim McDermott, and Rep. Linda Christensen. Some 71 members in the House have endorsed this bill, and we must contact our own representatives in Congress and hold them responsible for delivering and endorsing this bill. It's time has come.

For more information on HR676, please go to my website, www.citizensforhr676.org

Pearl Korn
New York City


Make Iraq the Issue

Amen to Ted Rall's "How Did You Vote on the War, Daddy?" column [7/1/06 TPP]. Former president Dwight D. "Ike" Eisenhower said: "Every gun that is fired, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."

What the most popular American of the 19th century, Ulysses S. Grant, said about the 1843 invasion of Mexico goes for the March 2003 invasion of Iraq: "It is one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation." The president of the United Methodist Church, the incumbent president and vice president's own denomination, and his holiness, Pope John Paul II of everlasting memory said about the same before the invasion of Iraq.

US Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., pointed out that Iraq had no navy, its air force was in Iran. The United Nations weapons inspectors discovered that Iraq's missiles could reach Israel only if they were without warheads. And they found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. There is no 9/11 connection.

The beloved Abraham Lincoln said about the invasion of Mexico what applies to that of Iraq. "It was unnecessary and unconstitutionally commenced and from the beginning to end the sheerest deception."

Progressive populists should vote next November for congressional candidates that have the strength and courage to vote for Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.)'s three House resolutions: HR 635 to censure the incumbent president; HR 636 to censure the incumbent vice president; and HR 637 to begin investigation in light of the Downing Street memos, the failure to get either congressional or UN Security Council permission to invade and other constitutional transgressions that may lead to impeachment of both.

Joseph J. Kuciejczyk
St. Louis, Mo.



I am old enough to remember when cars had triangular-shaped vent windows in the front seat as part of the front-side windows. When the car was moving all you need do was rotate the vent toward you and you had instant air conditioning. No global warming residue.

Question: which genius of the American auto industry did away with vent windows, and how much did the air-conditioning industry pay them to do it? Another question: Is it just CO2 emissions that go toward heating up the planet, or does the hot exhaust that belches out of every window A/C help to raise the temp?

Bernard J. Berg
Easton, Pa.



Joyce Marcel is unchallengeably accurate in describing the exorbitant interest charged by credit card companies as usury ["Where's Jesus When You Need Him," 8/1-15/06 TPP]. And she is accurate, too, in adding that "usurers now have a legal stranglehold on the American people."

My understanding is that the kind of usury we see today would have been illegal a few decades ago, and that the legalization of usury was an early example of the Republican orgy of de-regulation. Obviously, usury should be de-legitimized. But don't expect to see that happen real soon because the money-lenders are a key source of the campaign contributions (legal bribes) that "the best Congress money can buy" relies on.

Like a host of other worthy political objectives, re-regulation of the credit card industry depends on getting money out of politics. Public funding of campaigns should be the top priority of progressives.

Hugh Nash
Weed, Calif.


Bring Back Trolleys

In the 1950s trackless trolleys came along. They were a bus with a double trolley wire overhead. They were very efficient and plentiful. I had two transfers to make to get to work, but the wait time at either one was under five minutes. It did not pay for me to use my car.

General Motors, Goodyear Tires and Standard Oil got together. They wanted to force everybody they could back into cars. They pooled money, bought out public transportation companies across our USA. They did away with trackless trolleys. The last one here in Milwaukee was June 20, 1965. They put gasoline-burning buses on the street and not too many. I was one who was forced back into using my car.

Today everybody and their uncle has a car from age 16 and up and all are using them.

To solve this problem, either the federal, state or city governments should take over the public transportation of all cities. Bring back trackless trolleys. Running on electricity instead of gasoline cuts out gasoline pollution. The pollution from powerhouses is much easier to control.

If this was done, you would see one-third less cars on the streets of cities across this nation.

Mr. Clare J. Crowley
Milwaukee, Wis.


Viva Andres

I applaud the efforts of Andres Lopez Obrador [the presidential nominee of the Party of the Democratic Revolution in Mexico who is demanding a full recount of the contested vote]. This is something similar to what Al Gore should have done back in the election of 2000 when George Bush was allowed {by the Supreme Court of the United States} to steal the election. Gore should have held out regardless of the political and financial risks until all the votes were counted in Florida. Like it or not, one thing that trumps capitalism and political correctness in this country is the right to have one's vote counted. Sadly, this did not happen in 2000 and look at how this has cost the United States. Obrador is not the one charting a "reckless course" but rather it is those who have engaged in fraud to prevent the will of the people from being heard. They are the ones who must demonstrate the "rule of law over the rule of the mob." Until then, keep the protest going until every Mexican vote is counted.

Joe Bialek
Cleveland, Ohio

From The Progressive Populist, September 15, 2006

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