While Matthew Frank’s excellent article “Lost in transmission” (Aug. 11, 2011) exposes the dubious economics presented by corporations like NorthWestern Energy in their headlong pursuit of industrial scale merchant transmission lines like the Mountain States Transmission Intertie, it is only the tip of the iceberg.
It is most important to mention that MSTI and the Montana Alberta Tie Line, or MATL, will contain token wind energy but will primarily be transporting coal energy to urban centers outside of Montana. As it is both economically and physically impossible to transport 100-percent wind energy 1,500 miles, lines like MSTI will be “shored up” with, you guessed it, coal. Can any progressive or environmentalist in good conscience believe that a 1,500-mile 500 kV line with 150-foot towers strung four to six per mile carrying coal energy across this great continent can be considered green? None of this is to mention the scar these lines will leave on our rural landscape and the damage they will pose to Montanans’ livelihoods, health and way of life.
NorthWestern Energy and Tonbridge Power, with the help of Gov. Brian Schweitzer, have been successful in portraying MSTI and MATL, respectively, as green and that Montanans have a noble burden of providing places like Las Vegas with Montana wind energy. They are selling us down river.
When a Montana judge correctly ruled that a corporation (and a foreign one no less) did not have the right of eminent domain in condemning private property for the construction of MATL, the energy companies went crying to Helena. In the shit show that was Montana’s last legislative session, supporters of these lines introduced HB 198, which gives corporations the power to take private property. When supporters of the controversial bill realized they didn’t have the backing in committee to pass HB 198, they blasted the bill back to the Senate for an up or down vote. It narrowly passed.
Curiously absent was Schweitzer’s veto branding iron. Though the bill passed without his signature, Schweitzer, deft politician that he is, worked behind the scenes urging senators to support the bill while maintaining a skeptical public face. Now, under the guise of green energy and jobs, corporations can take your land for their own profit. If this sounds wrong to you, it is. This is bad politics, it is an affront to our rights as citizens, and it is a continuation of status-quo, corporate-driven, inefficient energy policy. I urge you to go to www.votefor 125.com and sign the petition to repeal HB 198 and give the people a voice in this issue, which affects you, your fellow Montanans, and our shared environment.
It’s incredible to sit back and consider the changes we’ve experienced as a result of commercial internet access. Things we once never dreamed possible have now become parts of our daily routine—talking on our cell phones, accessing videos on our mobile devices, participating in live video chats with people overseas—the list goes on and on. But in many ways, we’re still in the early stages of technological innovation, with many more incredible changes yet to be realized.
That’s why it’s so important that Montana keep pace with the rest of the nation in broadband access. High-speed internet access is no longer a luxury for the urban elite; it’s a necessity that all Americans deserve.
Sadly, Montana is already behind the curve. A recent study has Montana ranked near last in internet download speeds. Twenty-nine percent of Montanans lack broadband access—three times higher than the national average. And 77 percent of our Montana households have internet speeds that are below “minimum national standards.”
Access to high-speed broadband is of increasing importance for several reasons: Small businesses in Montana need high-speed access to compete in global markets without having to relocate to larger population centers. It provides new tools to agriculture producers to grow their businesses. It allows consumers to tap into e-commerce savings and to connect with local businesses. It enhances educational opportunities for young and old alike, such as distance learning. It creates new economic opportunities such as jobs, and increased productivity. It increases access to healthcare for patients and providers by allowing for tele-health and access to e-health records. And, increasingly, it’s a primary way for families and friends to stay in touch.
Montana truly is part of a global economy—our manufactures, services, and ag products are consumed all over the world. New technology integrated by Montana innovators has a tremendous added value to their businesses. To continue to compete, we must stay abreast with our worldwide trading partners.
Areas that are left without access to the latest broadband technology will fall behind if they’re not provided with the same opportunities as the rest of the country. We need new investment in Montana to ensure that the latest broadband technologies, like fiber optics and the emerging 4G LTE wireless networks, are rolled out in our state at the same rate as elsewhere.
High-speed internet broadband has already changed our lives in profound ways, but that innovation is far from over. With many of those future innovations requiring access to higher-capacity bandwidth, we need to start now to make sure Montana isn’t left behind.
Rep. Wayne Stahl
A recent Independent article (see “Orient express,” July 28, 2011) featured some climate change alarmism by UM professor Steve Running in which he actually uses the metaphor “tipping point,” which supposedly will lead to runaway global warming. This antiquated notion is just another scare tactic used by alarmists and has no scientific basis.
A new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing reports that NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth’s atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed. A July 26 University of Alabama press release reports that there is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans. The NASA satellite data also show that the atmosphere begins shedding heat into space long before United Nations computer models predicted.
The new NASA Terra satellite data, as well as long-term NOAA and NASA data, indicate that atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds are not increasing in the manner predicted by alarmist computer models. The Terra satellite data also support data collected by NASA’s ERBS satellite showing that far more heat escaped into space between 1985 and 1999 than alarmist computer models had predicted. Together, the NASA ERBS and Terra satellite data show that for 25 years and counting, carbon dioxide emissions have directly and indirectly trapped far less heat than alarmist computer models have predicted.
When objective NASA satellite data, reported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, show a huge discrepancy between alarmist climate models and real-world facts, climate scientists, the media and our elected officials would be wise to take notice. Whether or not they do so will tell us a great deal about how honest the purveyors of global warming alarmism truly are.
CO2, in spite of its increasing presence, still remains just a trace gas in the atmosphere—only about 0.04 percent. Also, natural production of CO2 from sources such as combustion of organic matter, natural decay of vegetation, volcanic emissions, and the natural respiration of all aerobic organisms dwarfs CO2 produced by fossil fuel burning. The U.S. Department of Energy has released estimates that nearly 97 percent of total CO2 emissions would occur even if humans were not present on earth and that, because of the overwhelming presence of water vapor, manmade CO2 causes less than 0.12 percent of earth’s greenhouse effect. To attribute so much power to affect the earth’s climate to such a minuscule amount of CO2 defies common sense. If accumulation of greenhouse gases has any impact on global temperatures, Department of Energy data indicate that nearly 99.9 percent would have to be attributed to natural causes. Nevertheless, alarmists blame approximately 1/1000 of all produced planetary CO2 as the principal cause of climate change, because this provides the only way to link global warming to anthropogenic CO2.
Numerous scientists and climatologists point to the terrible flaw that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change analysis totally ignores the climate impact of solar activity, water vapor, and the effects of cloud formation on global air pressure, temperature, and winds. As Dr. Tim Ball, the climate scientist formerly at the University of Winnipeg, puts it: “The analogy that I use is that my car is not running that well, so I’m going to ignore the engine (which is the sun), and I’m going to ignore the transmission (which is the water vapor) and I’m going to look at one nut on the right rear wheel (which is the human-produced CO2)—the science is that bad!”
I read Jacob Wustner’s letter relating to keeping bees, and the overuse of pesticides and herbicides being responsible for the colony hive collapse (see Letters, July 24, 2011). I have raised wildflowers for the past 20 years and became interested in the bees and other insects that came to them. I still have bees—not as many as some years, but enough to make me happy to see them and for them to pollinate my gardens and my raspberry patch. A few years ago I wrote to the new head of the Sierra Club and asked why I had never seen any publicity about the immaculate lawns across America and the numerous golf courses where a weed can’t raise its head—all this achieved by poison herbicides, the main culprit being Roundup. Why wasn’t the Sierra Club concerned? I ended by saying that I was sure my letter wouldn’t spur an immediate investigation into the “weed free” acres of green or for him to give me a reply, because his minions and membership all swung golf clubs and golf associations contributed to the Sierra Club. You are correct in assuming that I never heard from him.
If you don’t believe in God, join the secular society. The fact that this is on a billboard on Russell Street is a testament to many who do believe in God. Christ taught us that there is a better way. As a result of His teachings the greatest nation on earth was born. As a nation we have given more blood and treasures and freed more people from slavery than all of the nations in the world. Because the USA is founded on Christian beliefs, anyone can place a billboard saying anything they want to. I have one question: What is the name of a great nation that is founded on secular beliefs?
I do not see why the Republican Party bothers with choosing between the political nonentities that are vying to carry the party’s standard in the fall of 2012. The perfect Republican candidate is already in the White House. All the party needs to do is nominate President Barack Obama and be assured of a victory in November.
In 2008, candidate Obama ran as a liberal Democrat but he showed his true colors after entering office. Even before January 2009, Obama colluded with President Bush to bail out their buddies (and financial backers) on Wall Street. The TARP rescued the big banks and brokerage firms and kept the plutocrats in the boardrooms and CEO offices.
Candidate Obama ran on a platform of fiscal restraint, but he followed the Ronald Reagan promise of cutting government while actually expanding federal power and deficits. President Reagan borrowed trillions from Japan to fund the largest peacetime defense buildup in history. Reagan also expanded other government programs at the same time he cut taxes on the rich. President Obama continues to back a bloated Pentagon budget and gave billions in subsidies to energy companies, railroads and construction firms, all in the name of “economic stimulus.”
Candidate Obama promised to end the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. Once in office, he cleverly engineered the two-year extension of low taxes for the rich while also cutting taxes on the middle class, thereby adding to the budget deficit. He did this over the opposition of many Democratic members of Congress.
Candidate Obama promised to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He ordered the cessation of combat operations in Iraq and transferred the war fighters to Afghanistan. So far, that worked. The number of casualties in Iraq is minimal and we still have 50,000 occupation troops in the country, protecting it from Iran and al Qaeda. The Iraqi Government is trying to find a way to keep our troops there past the end of 2011.
The war in Afghanistan rages on and dozens of Americans are dying there each month. Obama followed President Bush’s Iraqi surge strategy in hopes of defeating the Taliban, in spite of evidence that the Afghans cannot be subdued by arms alone. Like a good Republican, President Obama promises to stay the course, over the objections of the Democrats.
President Obama one-upped his predecessor by starting a third war against an Islamic nation. He is also calling for “regime change,” “nation building” and the imposition of democracy on the Middle East. Like George H. W. Bush, Obama convinced a lot of allies to join the U.S. in attacking Libya. Obama went a little further and let the allies bear the brunt of the fighting.
Candidate Obama campaigned on the platform of affordable health care. President Obama delivered a law that required everyone to buy health insurance. This did not make health care affordable, but it did give a lot of money to the insurance companies. Just as Bush’s Medicare Part D drugs-for-seniors program benefited the drug companies, the biggest beneficiaries of Obamacare are the moneybags in the insurance industry.
President Obama hastily signed a four-year extension of the Patriot Act after 76 senators voted for it. This was after he had protested against government overreach when on the campaign trail. Now government whistle-blowers are being jailed for trying to expose financial irregularities. They are being charged under the 1917 espionage act.
About the only “liberal” thing President Obama has done is to end the ban on gays in the military. But of course, this increases the population of possible military recruits by 10 percent.
During the standoff over the debt ceiling, President Obama gave his party everything they wanted and then gave the Tea Party cover to vote against him. President Obama and the Republican leadership stalled the negotiations until the last minute in order to manufacture a crisis. He then maneuvered the Democrats into surrender in order to “save the full faith and credit of the American Government” from impending and unfathomable disaster. In spite of the no-votes of half of the congressional Democrats, Obama agreed to cut Social Security, cut Medicare, and cut social programs while barely touching the Pentagon budget. He also did not raise taxes on the richest citizens and corporations while adding to the tax burden on the middle class and Main Street businesses. The debt ceiling deal again rescued the stock market. After the Dow dropped nearly 1,000 points in a week, it timidly started to climb by 20 points two days after signing the debt ceiling bill. Wall Street insiders who sold the market short made a killing and the average investor got taken to the cleaners again.
Finally, there is Osama bin Laden. President Bush hunted for this terrorist mastermind for seven years. Or perhaps he did not want to find bin Laden. Obama made the extermination of bin Laden a priority and the U.S. security apparatus tracked him down and killed him in only 28 months. When Obama announced the kill on TV, he said, “We got him,” and credited the CIA and Navy SEALs for the hit. You have to realize that the White House was in real-time radio contact with the SEALs during the raid. Therefore it is easy to assume that Obama ordered the SEALs to kill bin Laden and not to capture him alive. No one outside the government has seen the photos of bin Laden after he was shot in the head. Is this to keep the public from seeing that Bin Laden was executed while on his knees, rather than being shot during the heat of battle?
The Republicans should run President Obama as their nominee. The Democrats can run Hope-and-Change Candidate Obama as their man, and they can hope he will change.
Four More Years!
Recently, Ravalli County Commissioners suggested government should not be involved in health issues incurred by citizens. I find that totally hypocritical. All levels of government do many things that cause health problems. For example, the Forest Service recently sprayed an herbicide, clopyralid, with a helicopter over a period of several days. The safety data sheet states it causes malformations in developing young. Also, exposure results in severe eye irritation and can cause blindness.
In addition, Hamilton and several other towns put on fireworks displays that released tons of toxic chemicals into the air. Look up all the toxic chemicals and heavy metals used to make fireworks. A major component in fireworks is an oxidizer called perchlorate, long known to be a serious health hazard. Perchlorate inhibits the thyroid’s ability to take up iodine and can reduce the production of thyroid hormone. Do we really need more hypothyroidism here? I have been studying the effects of hypothyroidism on wildlife and domestic grazing animals for 15 years. The prevalence of young now being born with symptoms of hypothyroidism is well over 50 percent for most wild and domestic ungulate species in Montana, especially domestic calves and goats. Other toxins in fireworks include mercury, barium and a banned pesticide, copper arsenate.
Counties spray most roadsides during the summer, eventually exposing all the people who live in that county to toxic herbicides. The herbicides used have been shown by multiple studies to cause chromosomal damage, reproductive problems, thyroid hormone disruption and cancer.
Government entities at all levels are continually dumping deadly toxins into the environment where citizens live. These actions are causing very serious health problems. So tell us again why it isn’t the government’s responsibility to help people with the ensuing health issues?
Thank you Missoula County Commissioners, National Wildlife Federation, Montana Environmental Information Center, and the Sierra Club for taking the lead in addressing the Montana Department of Transportation’s violation of the Montana Environmental Policy Act. Your successful suit against that agency for its inadequate evaluation of impacts of the proposed Highway 12 Imperial/Exxon Mobil megaload route reaffirms our faith in the ability of government and private citizens to intercede on behalf of Montanans threatened by an industry proposal that does more harm than good. Notwithstanding the incredibly destructive global effects of Alberta tar sands development, Montanans at the very least deserve a thorough understanding of the full range of impacts of the proposal, potentially degrading some of our region’s greatest national treasures.
One week before the Silvertip Pipeline burst and then bled into the Yellowstone River, Gov. Brian Schweitzer met with representatives from Exxon Mobil regarding the Kearl Module Transport Project, or “megaload” shipments. Although we have no way of knowing the full content of their conversation, it is reasonable to assume that the discussion involved the details of the project, repeated assurances of its safety, and a feeble request by the governor that the shipments be built in Montana rather than abroad. Days later, as the Silvertip Pipeline gushed oil into the longest un-dammed river in the lower 48 states (some of that oil, as we have recently learned, coming from the Alberta Tar Sands, unbeknownst to regulators), Schweitzer promised that the Keystone XL Pipeline, a project for which he has offered his unwavering support, would be different, that it would be more technologically sound, that the companies would be more honest, more transparent (see “Oil and water,” July 14, 2011).
It seems to have become a mantra: Next time. Next time it will be better. Next time things will be different. Exxon Valdez, Deep Horizon, Silvertip: These types of accidents will never happen again. Yes, it’s true that the first Keystone pipeline has leaked like a sieve—12 times in its first year of operation—and it’s true that if the Keystone XL burst it could dump 6.9 million gallons of toxic hydrocarbons into the same river. But no need to worry: Next time will be different.
There’s something extremely crude, as it were, about the mantra of “next time.” There’s something blatantly disrespectful about telling people whose homes and fields have just been turned into oil slicks that next time things will be different, that even though we have yet to recover from the devastation of the spill, we should simply move forward with new and significantly more dangerous projects.
Another pipeline leak occurred recently on the Blackfeet Reservation near Glacier National Park. A few weeks ago, a BP oil pipeline on Alaska’s North Slope ruptured, spilling up to 4,200 gallons of oil-containing fluids into the Alaskan tundra.
Schweitzer’s support for the Keystone XL Pipeline is reckless at best. It is a foolhardy gamble with the land, lives, and livelihoods of Montanans who have nothing to gain and everything to lose.
Legislative, litigative, and public protest are all integral components in any successful campaign to change public policy and build collective power. The capitol protest and occupation organized by Earth First! and Northern Rockies Rising Tide that took place on July 12 was an attempt to expose Schweitzer’s two-faced attempt to publicly chastise Exxon and quell the anger of Montanans while simultaneously supporting the XL Pipeline and Exxon’s Kearl shipments.
Unfortunately, unlike the national coverage of the event, which chose to focus on the links between the governor, Exxon, and Keystone XL, much of the local media focused attention on comparatively trivial matters.
Contrary to some media reports, the protest was rowdy but respectful. According to the Helena police, there was absolutely no damage done to the capitol building, which was left spotless. We made a genuine attempt to have a serious conversation with Schweitzer, but were repeatedly refused this opportunity. (Watch the raw video footage online to see how the governor responded to direct questioning).
Loud, vibrant protesters may turn some people off, but they serve a purpose. They draw a clear line demarcating where public figures stand on certain issues. In the end, what the people of Montana have learned (or at least should have learned) from the governor’s response to our demands is that our supposed “public servant” would sooner bow down to the interests of the largest corporations on Earth than stand up for the land, lives, and livelihoods of Montanans. We find that attitude to be disrespectful and crude.
Northern Rockies Rising Tide