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August 2007: Notes

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•  From “Midwest has ‘Coal Rush,’ Seeing No Alternative”, by Steven Mufson in the March 10, 2007, online Washington Post: MidAmerican Energy Holdings, a coal-powered generating station, was due to come online last spring. It “will be one of the nation’s biggest, with 790 megawatts of capacity. Its boilers and pulverizers will devour 400 tons of coal every hour, 3.5 million tons a year. … Combined with an existing plant next door, it will require a fresh train of coal every 16 to 17 hours; each train will be nearly 1.5 miles long and lug 135 cars about 650 miles from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. … A dozen more [coal-powered plants] are under construction and about 40 others are likely to start up within five years. … Utility executives say that the coal expansion is needed to meet rising electricity demand as the U.S. population and economy grow. Coal-fired plants provide half the electricity supply in the country.”

•  This is a very short excerpt from an article, “The Responsibility of Being Organic”, That Robert Rodale wrote in 1971: “ [The organic method is more than just a way to garden and farm. It is a natural philosophy of living, outlining a way for people to complete the cycle of resource use which is now broken completely. The organic person puts back what is used into the resource bank upon which future generations will depend. When garbage and sewage and crop wastes are returned to the soil, we are making life a complete cycle instead of a one-way street down which the world’s resources are flushed.”

•  More about the impact of Biofuels:

  • From “The Mexican ‘Tortilla Crisis’ of 2007” by Alder Keleman in the Summer Solstice 2007 issue of the Seedhead News (Native Seeds/SEARCH, 526 N. 4th Avenue, Tucson AZ 85705): The article first speaks of the impact that rising corn prices—mainly due to US demand for corn for biofuel—are having on the Mexican people and small-scale farmers. “A final and related question is what the impacts of these circumstances on native maize landraces will be. In recent years, the government-sponsored promotion of large-scale industrial production has also heralded an increased tendency toward the use of high-yielding varieties. This same pattern has been accompanied by an amplified ‘rural exodus,’ in which young people in particular exit farming in search of more profitable activities in Mexican cities or in the US. These circumstances have particularly impacted the small-scale farming communities that tend to steward native maize landraces; even in communities where farmers continue to maintain their traditional varieties, few young people embrace the agricultural lifestyle, raising doubts as to whether the same traditions (and germplasm) will be carried on in one or two generations’ time.”
  • From “Biofuel’s Big Bean” by April Howard and Benjamin Dangl in the July-August 2007 Utne: “Rural eastern Paraguay was once flush with jungles, small farms, schools and wildlife. Now it is a sea of soybeans.” Soy farmers that came to the area fumigated so heavily that the original population grew sick, their chickens died, cows aborted then dried up. People who didn’t sell their land and leave at that point were often assaulted by thugs. “In June 2006, the chief executive of Cargill told The New York Times that the biofuel industry is a ‘gold rush.’ … According to the March 2007 Ecologist, biotech businesses look to set up shop in countries where environmental regulations are slack”. Although biofuels are supposed to be good for the environment, “an acre of forested land absorbs almost twice as much carbon dioxide as land used to grow biofuel crops.”
  • From “Mexican farmers replace tequila plant with corn” by Sara Miller Llana in the June 21, 2007, issue of The Christian Science Monitor: “Agave fields that blanket the state of Jalisco were named a UNESCO World Heritage site last year.” However, “about one-quarter of those who grow agave, which is used in the production of tequila, are expected to burn their fields to make way for corn, as prices have nearly doubled from what they were a year ago, due to US ethanol demand. Agave is not the only casualty of the corn-based ethanol craze. Mexican beans, potatoes, rice, and barley have all been mowed over for corn.”




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