Nathaniel Perry: “Remaking a Neglected Orchard”

American Life in Poetry: Column 306

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

My grandmother Moser made wonderful cherry pies from fruit from a tree just across the road from her house, and I have loved fruit trees ever since. A cherry tree is all about giving. Here’s a poem by Nathaniel Perry, who lives in Virginia, giving us an orchard made of words.

Remaking a Neglected Orchard

It was a good idea, cutting away
the vines and ivy, trimming back
the chest-high thicket lazy years
had let grow there. Though it wasn’t for lack

of love for the trees, I’d like to point out.
Years love trees in a way we can’t
imagine. They just don’t use the fruit
like us; they want instead the slant

of sun through narrow branches, the buckshot
of rain on these old cherries. And we,
now that I think on it, want those
things too, we just always and desperately

want the sugar of the fruit, the best
we’ll get from this irascible land:
sweetness we can gather for years,
new stains staining the stains on our hands.

Michael Klare: “The Year of Living Dangerously”

Published in Tomdispatch.com, January 23, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

Rising Commodity Prices and Extreme Weather Events Threaten Global Stability

by Michael Klare

Get ready for a rocky year.  From now on, rising prices, powerful storms, severe droughts and floods, and other unexpected events are likely to play havoc with the fabric of global society, producing chaos and political unrest. Start with a simple fact: the prices of basic food staples are already approaching or exceeding their 2008 peaks, that year when deadly riots erupted in dozens of countries around the world.

It’s not surprising then that food and energy experts are beginning to warn that 2011 could be the year of living dangerously — and so could 2012, 2013, and on into the future.  Add to the soaring cost of the grains that keep so many impoverished people alive a comparable rise in oil prices — again nearing levels not seen since the peak months of 2008 — and you can already hear the first rumblings about the tenuous economic recovery being in danger of imminent collapse.  Think of those rising energy prices as adding further fuel to global discontent.

Already, combined with staggering levels of youth unemployment and a deep mistrust of autocratic, repressive governments, food prices have sparked riots in Algeria and mass protests in Tunisia that, to the surprise of the world, ousted long-time dictator President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and his corrupt extended family.  And many of the social stresses evident in those two countries are present across the Middle East and elsewhere.  No one can predict where the next explosion will occur, but with food prices still climbing and other economic pressures mounting, more upheavals appear inevitable. These may be the first resource revolts to catch our attention, but they won’t be the last.

Put simply, global consumption patterns are now beginning to challenge the planet’s natural resource limits.  Populations are still on the rise, and from Brazil to India, Turkey to China, new powers are rising as well.  With them goes an urge for a more American-style life.  Not surprisingly, the demand for basic commodities is significantly on the rise, even as supplies in many instances are shrinking.  At the same time, climate change, itself a product of unbridled energy use, is adding to the pressure on supplies, and speculators are betting on a situation trending progressively worse.  Add these together and the road ahead appears increasingly rocky.

Breadbaskets without Bread

Let’s begin with food, the most important and volatile of these commodities.  Food prices declined in October 2008 after the onset of the global financial crisis, but that seems to have been an anomaly.  The December 2010 index of global food prices compiled by the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) hit a record 215, one point higher than in the spring of 2008.  (In that index, based on a “bundle” of food staples, a baseline of 100 represents average prices in 2002-2004.)  In fact, some food products, including sugar, cooking oils, and fats, are now trading substantially above their 2008 levels; others, including dairy products, grains, and meat, are inching perilously close to record levels.

As 2011 begins, food experts fear that, within months, prices for key staples will climb above the 2008 threshold and stay there, causing extreme hardship for poor people around the world.  “We are at a very high level,” said a worried Abdolreza Abbassian, an economist at the FAO.  “These levels in the previous episode led to problems and riots across the world.”

Of particular concern to Abbassian and his colleagues is the rising cost of corn, rice, and wheat, the staple crops of billions in many of the poorest countries.  According to the FAO, by the end of 2010 international corn and wheat prices were already approaching their 2008 peak levels (about $260 and $340 per metric ton, respectively).

Analysts attribute the rise in grain prices to growing demand in both developed and developing nations, along with a number of cataclysmic weather-related events and speculation by investors.  An extreme drought and fierce fires last summer destroyed a large percentage of the wheat crop in Russia and Ukraine, while heavy flooding in India and the inundation of 20% of Pakistan damaged significant parts of the grain output of those countries. At the same time, unusually hot and dry weather suppressed production in a number of other key farming areas.

What makes the picture look so worrisome today are indications that the severity and frequency of extreme weather events appear to be on the rise.  In the past few weeks alone, several such events point the way to serious supply problems ahead.  Most significant has been the unprecedented rainfall and flooding in Australia that put an area more than twice the size of California largely underwater, significantly disrupting wheat cultivation there.  Australia is one of the world’s leading wheat producers.  Unusually dry conditions in the American Midwest and Argentina have also hinted at future problems in grain and corn output.  It’s still too early to predict the size of this year’s grain and corn harvests, but many analysts are warning of a shortfall in supplies, along with sky-high prices.

Mainstream analysts and government officials are loathe to attribute this traffic jam of extreme weather events to global warming.  Huge variations in rainfall can be normal, especially in places like Australia that are susceptible to El Niño/La Niña ocean-temperature oscillations, and politicians are fearful of assuming responsibility for a problem as massive as climate change.  But climate change theory has long suggested that the warming trend — 2010 tied 2005 for the warmest year on record and nine of the 10 warmest years have come in the last decade — will be accompanied by an increase in the frequency and severity of storms.  It’s hard to escape the conclusion that recent events, including those Australian floods, are tied to rising global temperatures.

The Energy Crisis Returns

Soaring food prices are being driven as well by speculative investments and the rising price of oil.  Partly in response to the diminishing value of the dollar, some investors are sinking their money into food futures (along with gold and silver) as a speculative hedge.  At the same time, the price of oil is edging toward the $100 mark, making it increasingly profitable for farmers to switch from growing corn for human consumption to growing it for the manufacture of ethanol, which in turn reduces the amount of farm acreage devoted to staples.  Oil would have to fall below $50 per barrel to make the cultivation of corn as a food product competitive with ethanol production — and that’s not likely to happen.  So even if more corn is produced this year, less will be available for food purposes and the price of what remains is bound to rise.

The precipitous rise in oil prices has startled the experts.  Not so long ago, the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) was projecting a price range of $70-$80 per barrel in 2011, but as the year began oil was already trading above $90 a barrel and some analysts predict that it will reach $100 before the year is out.  A few are even talking about the $150 barrel and gas prices at the pump of $4 or more.  If prices climb above $100, global consumer spending could take another nosedive.

“Oil prices are entering a dangerous zone for the global economy,” says Fatih Birol, the chief economist for the International Energy Agency (IEA).  “The oil import bills are becoming a threat to the economic recovery.”

As with food, the rising cost of oil is a product of growing demand, insufficient supplies, and speculative investments.  According to the most recent projections from the IEA, daily global oil consumption in 2011 will average 87.4 million barrels, an increase of about two million barrels from the first quarter of 2010.  Much of the extra demand is coming from China, where a newly-minted middle class is buying automobiles at a record clip, as well as from the United States, where previously cautious consumers are slowly returning to pre-2008 driving habits.

At a time when the oil industry is experiencing declining rates of output at many existing oil fields and finding it ever more difficult to add production, even two million extra barrels per day can be a daunting challenge (and greater demand is expected in the coming years).  In the United States, for example, much hope was placed in oil exploration in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico and offshore Alaska, but in the wake of the BP disaster, this seems like a forlorn prospect.  Production in Mexico and the North Sea, two bright spots of recent years, is facing a sharp decline, while other key producers, including those in the Middle East, are struggling to maintain current output levels at existing fields.

Many energy analysts believe that the world is at (or will soon reach) peak oil — the moment when global petroleum output achieves a maximum sustainable daily rate and begins a long-term, irreversible decline.  Others contend that higher levels of output are still possible.  Whatever the truth of the matter, at this moment the oil industry is finding it increasingly difficult, and ever more costly, to boost output above current levels.  This, combined with insatiable demand, is driving prices skyward.

Under these circumstances, speculators are again being drawn into the oil market as a rare sure bet.  Such speculators helped push oil prices to a record $147 per barrel back in 2008, but fled the market when prices crashed as the American economy headed to a meltdown.  Now, they’re coming back.  “Hedge funds and private investors are buying up financial instruments tied to the price of crude, and thereby helping push up oil prices,” the Wall Street Journal reported in late December.

Most analysts are expecting a price surge this spring or summer when American motorists hit the road.  “We will have a spring rally that will take us to between $3.10 and $3.50 a gallon for gasoline at service stations in the United States,”predicted Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service.

The rising price of gas will, in turn, hurt consumers just as they show signs of opening their wallets again.  No less worrisome, oil-importing countries like the United States, Japan, and many in Europe will face soaring bills for fuel imports, further enfeebling economies already suffering from profound weakness.

According to some calculations, oil prices added another $72 billion to America’s mammoth balance-of-payments deficit last year.  Europe had to cough up an additional $70 billion for imported oil and Japan $27 billion.  “It is a very telling story,” says the IEA’s Fatih Birol of recent oil-price data.  “2010 rang the first alarm bells and 2011 price levels could bring us to the same financial crisis times that we saw in 2008.”

Rising food prices leading to riots, protests, and revolts, mounting oil prices, mammoth worldwide unemployment, and a collapsed recovery — it looks like the perfect set of preconditions for a global tsunami of instability and turmoil.  Events in Algeria and Tunisia give us just an inkling of what this maelstrom might look like, but where and how it will next erupt, and in what form, is anyone’s guess.  A single guarantee: we haven’t seen the last of resource revolts which, in the coming years, could reach an intensity we scarcely imagine today.

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet.  To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Klare discusses what rising food prices mean globally, click here or, to download it to your iPod, here. A documentary movie version of his previous book, “Blood and Oil,” is available from the Media Education Foundation.

Copyright 2011 Michael T. Klare

How the Snow Gets Plowed in Washington, D.C.

“Obama announces that he wants to get the snow plowed, but that he wants bipartisan consensus and compromise instead of unilateral action, and that instead of him pushing a particular snow-plowing policy, he wants Congress to work out the details. The Republicans, seeing that Obama is for cleaning up the snow, decide that they must be against it. They negotiate the plan down to clearing half the snow and doing it very slowly. Then they still refuse to support it. Joe Lieberman expresses his intention to join Republicans in filibustering the plan if it comes to that.

“Eventually, the Republicans and Senate Democrats have whittled it down to a non-binding resolution expressing support for the idea of ‘somebody’ plowing the snow at some point in the future, and the Democrats have thrown in some tax cuts to get 60 votes. It finally passes, still getting zero Republican votes (other than Olympia Snowe, since it reminds her of her name). Republicans attribute this to Democrats’ hyper-partisanship and unwillingness to negotiate.

“At this point, it is July.”

(From Climate Science Watch)

Does President Obama Understand Why Government Exists?

Robert Reich, writing yesterday (“The President Ignored the Elephant in the Room“) in his blog, says that government exists “to protect and advance the interests of average working families.”

Reich explains how the destruction of the purchasing power of average working families is the root problem of our current economic malaise.

The recession wasn’t due to loss of “competitiveness” …  American corporations are enormously competitive, racking up some of their highest profits in history …

The president’s failure to address this decoupling of corporate profits from jobs … risks making his plans for reviving “competitiveness” seem beside the point …

What he should have done is talk about the central structural flaw in the US economy, the dwindling share of its gains going to the vast middle class, and the almost unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at the top.  Although the economy is more than twice as large as 30 years ago, the median wage has barely budged. Most of the gains from growth have gone to the richest whose share of total income soared from about 9 per cent in the late 1970s to 23.5 per cent in 2007.  Americans kept spending by using their homes as ATMs but the bursting of the housing bubble put an end to that – leaving them without enough purchasing power to reboot the economy. So the challenge is to rev-up consumer spending by putting more money into the pockets of average Americans …

While Obama’s cronies — drawn mostly from the financial industry — urge him to continue seeking “supply side” remedies (bank bailouts, reduction of corporate taxes, easing of government regulations), no one is much focused on how to restore demand, which means creating jobs now, not decades from now.

Jack Rasmus (author of Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Depression), writing in In These Times (“Obama’s State of the Union: No Jobs, but More Business Tax Cuts“) makes precisely the same point:

The problem in the U.S. economy, now experiencing the most lopsided (and weakest) economic ‘recovery’ from any recession since 1947, is not too high business costs or insufficient supply side (business tax) stimulus. The problem is demand side—i.e. not enough income for the 90 million middle and working class households. That insufficient income means first and foremost not enough jobs. On Tuesday night, Obama said nothing of substance about how to create jobs today or even in the next one to two years. Job creation was relegated to the distant future, stretched out over the next 25 years.

The U.S. economy and households do not need a 25-year job creation plan. They need an immediate job creation program. And they need a definitive solution to prevent 10 million foreclosures. And they better get quickly a rescue of the states and cities, before the local government crisis sinks the municipal bond markets and subsequently precipitates another ‘subprime’-like financial implosion. Yet no mention of any of this in the State of the Union address, as if these weren’t the most serious issues confronting the US economy today.

President Obama got much deserved praise for the good things he said in his State of the Union address, but little criticism for what he completely failed to discuss. Reich points out that “the address he gave last night could have been given (indeed, was given) by Democrats in the 1980s when Japan seemed to threaten America’s preeminence.”

What Obama failed to address was the single most crucial structural weakness in our economic system, indeed in our political system, the continuing erosion of our middle class.

This point got swamped by the feel-good rhetoric of a very conventional feel-good State of the Union address.

Fractal Broccoli from Briarpatch, on Piano

Fractal Broccoli from Briarpatch on Piano

Fractal Broccoli from Briarpatch on Bookshelf

Visual History of Koch Conservatism, from John Birch to Cato

Reprinted from Alternet.

Want to explain to your friends and relatives how the Tea Party is corporately-financed and “grassroots” right-wing activity is not spontaneous? Here’s a graphic to get you started.

This infographic on the Koch brothers’ long history of ultra-conservative activity and financial support for the most extreme of right-wing activity comes to us via The Other 98%.

What Conservatives Find Funny: Fake History and Dead Liberals

Cross-posted from the Roosevelt Institute’s New Deal 2.0 blog.

by Harvey Kaye

Bizarre revisions of American history are disturbing enough — but the violence in the ‘joking’ should be condemned.

Keeping an eye on conservatives as I do, I was intrigued by a popular new title, “365 Ways to Drive a Liberal Crazy” from Regnery Publishing. Written by James Delingpole — who, the jacket blurb states, “terrorizes liberals on both sides of the Atlantic” in the pages of Human EventsThe Spectator, and The Daily Telegraph — “365 Ways” is billed as a work that will enable you to “brighten your day and darken a liberal’s.”

It’s interesting to consider what conservatives find funny. The book contains some “friendly” jokes like “Q: What’s the difference between a liberal and a puppy? A: A puppy stops whining after it grows up,” and “Q: Why do liberals like smart women? A: Opposites attract”. (Is this an admission that conservatives like “dumb women”??)

A few entries are truly ominous, such as “Q: What do you call a thousand liberals at the bottom of the sea? A: A good start” and “SAY A PRAYER: Dear Lord, you took my favorite actor Patrick Swayze. You took my favorite actress Farah Fawcett. You took my favorite singer Michael Jackson. I just wanted to let you know that my favorite president is Barack Obama.” Do liberals make these sorts of sick jokes about conservatives? It doesn’t seem to be our cup of tea.

A lot of the “daily” recommendations go after Obama, his health care reform program, and the supposed inanity of liberalism. The author encourages readers to “refer freely and interchangeably to ‘liberals,’ ‘socialists,’ ‘Reds,’ ‘progressives,’ ‘Commies,’ ‘left-wing bastards,’ ‘pinkos,’ ‘Trots,’ ‘Nazis,’ etc.” Now clearly, most of that is the usual fare spouted by reactionaries — McCarthyites in the past, Gingrichites and Tea Partiers today — and I suppose I can even live with “left-wing bastards.” But Nazis? Talk about stupid… Talk about turning the world inside out… Had it been up to the “America First” political right in 1941, we might all be “Heil Hitlering” today (at least the non-Jews among us).

Of course, Delingpole just had to attack FDR and the New Deal. It’s all the rage on the right, you know. Delingpole writes:

CONSERVATIVE HISTORY: Describe how, contrary to cozy liberal myth, the Great FDR managed to prolong the Great Depression by seven years. Research by UCLA economists Harold L. Cole and Lee Ohanian has shown that the anti-competition and pro-labor measures Roosevelt signed into law as part of his New Deal stalled what could have been a “beautiful recovery.”

Conservative history? Rightwing revisionism and delusion, I’d say.

Then Delingpole joins the right-wing campaign to appropriate Revolutionary patriot Thomas Paine (after having done everything they could for 200 years to bury his memory and legacy):

ON HIS BIRTHDAY (FEBRUARY 9), QUOTE THOMAS PAINE, WHO FORESAW 250 YEARS AGO JUST WHERE THE UNITED STATES COULD GO WRONG: “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”

How absurd. Delingpole, like others of his ilk, completely ignores the fact that Paine was both a radical democrat and a pioneering social democrat (regarding the former, read all of “Common Sense“, which, by the way, was published not 250 but 235 years ago; and on the latter, peruse “Rights of Man” and “Agrarian Justice“).

But then again, when did conservatives and reactionaries ever worry about the facts?

Harvey J. Kaye is the Ben & Joyce Rosenberg Professor of Democracy and Justice Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and the author of Thomas Paine and the Promise of America. He is currently writing The Four Freedoms and the Promise of America. Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HarveyJKaye

Grass Valley, California Mining Featured in Washington Post

Dale Kasler, writing in today’s Washington Post, quotes Grass Valley’s recent mayor Lisa Swarthout on the sensible objection to opening an old gold mine in the center of town:

In Grass Valley, for instance, a thriving high-tech industry has sprouted in a community where the high school sports teams are called the Miners. Emotions are mixed on the proposal by Emgold Mining of Vancouver, British Columbia, to reopen the old Idaho-Maryland Mine, which hasn’t operated since 1956.

“The landscape of the community has changed,” said Mayor Lisa Swarthout. “When it was an operating mine . . . it was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The community has grown around it.”

“The community has grown around it.”

There, in a nutshell, is the most fundamental damning fact that should doom the idea of re-opening the old Idaho-Maryland mine in the heart of Grass Valley.

Kassler, despite later quoting a local research group, CLAIM-GV (Citizens Looking at the Impact of Mining in Grass Valley), here trivializes the community’s strong objection to the mine, by framing it in terms of the quirky preference for “boutiques” and B&Bs:

Old mining towns still embrace their Gold Rush roots but have become havens for tourists and retirees. Some residents aren’t convinced that blasting through rock is compatible with boutiques and bed-and-breakfast spots.

The Washington Post article quotes Emgold CEO David Watkinson, who is still repeating his largely discredited promise of 400 jobs and repeating his ludicrous claim that junior mining companies are generally having trouble raising money in these recessionary times.

In fact, other juniors with proven reserves are having no such problems raising funds, especially in this time of exceptionally high gold prices.

Emgold, with no proven reserves, is a uniquely weak prospect for success of any kind.

Watkinson, in his trademark spin, also continues to misrepresent a 2006 telephone survey by claiming that “72 percent of Grass Valley residents” support the mine. In fact, the survey of only 338 residents was conducted before all the negative environmental impacts were documented in the environmental impact report. Those 243 favorable responses were conditional on environmental safeguards being in place.

We do not know how many of those 243 respondents live or own property near the mine site. But we do know now that this proposed industrial hardrock mine near the heart of Grass Valley poses a significant threat to air and water quality, and that it will greatly increase traffic congestion and noise.

“We’ve been hit with the recession, just like everybody else,” said Chief Executive David Watkinson. “Even with the high price of gold, you’ll find junior mining companies are struggling to find money.”

Watkinson said mining would create 400 jobs in Grass Valley. He said he’s encouraged that the project won support of 72 percent of Grass Valley residents in a survey conducted four years ago by the city.

But there is opposition. Critics say the project would create environmental hazards and hurt the quirky character of Grass Valley.

“We feel the real gold is the wonderful environment,” said Ralph Silberstein, a software consultant and president of CLAIM, or Citizens Looking at Impacts of Mining.

Read the full Washington Post article: Despite price rise, there’s no 21st-century Gold Rush in Calif.”

See Dale Kasler’s original November 2010 Sacramento Bee article, from which today’s Washington Post article was excerpted.

How Would You Change Your Life If You Thought … ?

Here’s the latest in John Boswell’s unique and beautiful Symphony of Science series. This short three-minute video is called “The Big Beginning,” and raps — you might say — on some of the basic facts of the Big Bang.

Since the Renaissance, but especially since the Industrial Revolution, we in the West live in a world in which the scientific and spiritual realms are increasingly separate and apparently incompatible with one another.

Over the centuries, some people in each realm have tried at various times to resolve this split by vanquishing the other realm in its entirety.

For instance …

Fundamentalisms of all kinds usually retreat into some text as the “word of God,” and engage in complete denial of well-established scientific facts about such matters as the age of the Earth and the processes of evolution.

On the other hand, some atheists (in the other realm) “preach” a radical absence of meaning in the mindless mechanisms of our cosmos.

John Boswell’s work, though, points to a middle way, in which the facts of science itself are an expression of the spiritual. They are both spiritual and material.

One of the great beauties of this “middle way” (and it’s no accident that you find this expression in Buddhism) is that it heals the split in our culture as well as the split within our own psyches: Boswell’s work engages both our intellectual and our emotional faculties at once. For some of us, science always does this.

How would you change your life if you believed that the entire universe is holy?

Opponents to Fracking Disclosure Take Big Money From Industry

by Abrahm Lustgarten ProPublica, Jan. 14, 2011, 2:46 p.m.

5:28 p.m.: This post has been corrected.

Congress isn’t going to regulate hydraulic fracturing any time soon. But the Department of Interior might. For starters, Interior is mulling whether it should require drilling companies to disclose the chemicals they use to frack wells drilled on public lands, and already the suggestion has earned Interior Secretary Ken Salazar an earful.

On January 5, a bipartisan group of 32 members of Congress, who belong to the Natural Gas Caucus, sent Salazar a letter imploring him to resist a hasty decision because more regulations would “increase energy costs for consumers, suppress job creation in a promising energy sector, and hinder our nation’s ability to become more energy independent.”

A week later, 46 House Democrats followed up by signing a letter to Salazar urging him to at least adopt the disclosure requirement because, as Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., said, “communities across America have seen their water contaminated by the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process.”

“The public has a right to know what toxins might be going into the ground near their communities, and what might be leaking into their drinking water,” said the letter, which was sent by the three initial sponsors of now-stalled legislation to regulate fracturing, Hinchey, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo.

In the context of today’s roiling political and energy debates, it’s not at all clear who will win. But if money is an indicator, the anti-regulatory group has the upper hand.

A back-of-the-envelope analysis of campaign finance dollars contributed to the members of Congress who are speaking out on the issue shows that the Natural Gas Caucus received 19 times more money from the oil and gas industry between 2009 and 2010 than the group who signed Rep. Hinchey’s letter. According to data from Open Secrets, the 32 members against disclosure received $1,742,572. The average contribution from the oil and gas sector to individuals from that group was $54,455. Oklahoma Democrat Dan Boren, who co-chairs the caucus, personally received more than $202,000, including almost $15,000 from Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest natural gas producers in the United States.

By comparison, the Hinchey-DeGette-Polis group—which has 14 more people than the Natural Gas Caucus—received $91,212 from the industry. The average contribution to those members was $1,982, 1/27th the amount donated to members of the Natural Gas Caucus.

Requiring disclosure of the chemicals used to drill on federal lands would affect only a small proportion of gas wells drilled in the country each year—roughly 11 percent, by the Department of Interior’s estimates. In 2009, 19,000 new gas wells were drilled, adding to the 493,000 gas wells already producing in the United States. According to Hinchey’s office, disclosure on federal lands would set an important precedent, because that information would become part of the public record and, when combined with state-based disclosure rules, “would provide a great deal of useful information for those concerned with the risks these chemicals may pose.”

Traditionally, the exact recipes of chemicals used in the fracturing process have been kept secret by the companies to protect their competitive advantage, and the fracturing process itself is exempt from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The disclosure issue has become a rallying point against natural gas development in the United States because scientists have repeatedly said that they can’t thoroughly examine water contamination cases for links to drilling because they don’t know what to test for.

At least four states have already mandated some degree of disclosure of fracking chemicals: Wyoming, New York, Pennsylvania and Colorado. If federal lands are added to those states, then public disclosure of fracking chemicals would be required on roughly 40 percent of the gas wells in the United States. (It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact percentage because federal statistics don’t distinguish between oil and gas wells.)

The resistance to disclosure mandates on federal lands contradicts the public position of many of the oil and gas companies involved. Chesapeake Energy, the company that contributed so heavily to Rep. Boren, has repeatedly stated that it supports more transparency and believes the chemicals used in fracturing should be disclosed.

Nicholas Kusnetz contributed to this report.

Correction: The original version of this story represented a statement made by Rep. Maurice Hinchey about the letter he sent to the Department of Interior as a quotation from the letter itself. The story has been revised to make the distinction between his statement, and the letter.

Campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, 2009-2010

Source: Open Secrets

To the: Natural Gas Caucus

Tim Murphy (R-PA) Co-Chair, Natural Gas Caucus $202,500
Dan Boren (D-OK) Co-Chair, Natural Gas Caucus $96,350
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) $57,500
Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) $0
John Shadegg (R-AZ) $12,400
Lee Terry (R-NE) $52,650
Dan Burton (R-IN) $2,600
Frank Lucas (R-OK) $48,350
Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) $19,500
Jim Costa (D-CA) $59,900
Christopher Lee (R-NY) $16,650
Jason Altmire (D-PA) $10,450
Kevin Brady (R-TX) $91,400
John Fleming (R-LA) $121,650
John Sullivan (R-OK) $124,800
Bill Shuster (R-PA) $25,000
Sue Myrick (R-NC) $21,000
Rob Bishop (R-UT) $17,750
Glenn Thompson (R-PA) $55,072
Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) $89,550
Mark Critz (D-PA) $0
Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) $7,000
Thaddeus McCotter(R-MI) $3,000
Denny Rehberg (R-MT) $35,550
Mike Conaway (R-TX) $132,100
Tom Cole (R-OK) $80,500
Gene Green (D-TX) $83,600
Wally Herger (R-CA) $7,000
Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) $49,900
Mike Coffman (R-CO) $44,250
Ralph Hall (R-TX) $48,750
Mike Ross (D-AR) $125,850
Total $1,742,572

Campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, 2009-2010

Source: Open Secrets [7]

Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY) $0
Diana DeGette (D-CO) $2,750
Jared Polis (D-CO) $0
Gary Ackerman (D-NY) $5,800
Barbara Lee (D-CA) $3,250
Howard L. Berman (D-CA) $0
Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) $6,062
Lois Capps (D-CA) $0
William Lacy Clay (D-MO) $0
Steve Cohen (D-TN) $0
Gerald Connolly (D-VA) $4,500
Keith Ellison (D-MN) $1,750
Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) $0
Sam Farr (D-CA) $0
Barney Frank (D-MA) $0
Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) $2,500
Mazie Hirono (D-HI) $4,000
Rush D. Holt (D-NJ) $0
Michael M. Honda (D-CA) $1,000
Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) $0
James R. Langevin (D-RI) $0
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) $2,500
Nita M. Lowey (D-NY) $7,700
Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) $9,500
Betty McCollum (D-MN) $0
Mike Thompson (D-MS) $5,250
James P. Moran (D-VA) $1,500
Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) $15,100
John W. Olver (D-MA) $3,000
William L. Owens (D-NY) $0
John P. Sarbanes (D-MD) $4,050
Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL) $0
Jose Serrano (D-NY) $0
Jackie Speier (D-CA) $0
Fortney Pete Stark (D-CA) $0
Paul Tonko (D-NY) $4,000
Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) $6,000
Lynn C. Woolsey (D-CA) $0
Mike Quigley (D-IL) $0
Chellie Pingree (D-ME) $0
Jay Inslee (D-WA) $0
Bob Filner (D-CA) $0
Dale E. Kildee (D-MI) $0
Donna F. Edwards (D-TX) $1,000
Steven R. Rothman (D-NJ) $0
Adam Smith (D-WA) $0
Total $91,212

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