Friday, January 20, 2006


Three people described as members of an "eco-terrorist" organization scouted Nimbus Dam, a nearby fish hatchery and a forest genetics facility as possible targets to bomb, according to an FBI affidavit filed Tuesday in federal court. Three days after visiting the sites, Eric Taylor McDavid, 28, Zachary O. Jenson, 20, and Lauren Weiner, 20, were arrested in Auburn as they emerged from a Kmart with materials that the FBI suspects were to be used to build explosive devices. The three are charged by criminal complaint with conspiring to use fire or explosives to damage property. They appeared in Sacramento federal court Tuesday and were ordered held pending bail hearings. There is no opportunity to enter a plea to a criminal complaint in federal court.

The case against the three is based on extensive electronic surveillance and an FBI "confidential source who is deeply embedded within the subjects' cell" of the Earth Liberation Front, according to the affidavit of FBI Special Agent Nasson Walker. According to the affidavit, McDavid told the confidential source that he was "introduced ... to anarchist thought" by Ryan Daniel Lewis, a 22-year-old Newcastle man who pleaded guilty in October in federal court to arson and attempted arson in a series of firebombings in Placer and Amador counties. Lewis has been identified by the FBI as an Earth Liberation Front member. The organization is described in Walker's affidavit as an "eco-terrorist group that advocates ... (i.e. criminal activity) against targets identified as contributing to the destruction/exploitation of the earth and its resources."

McDavid, Jenson and Weiner researched potential targets and visited Nimbus Dam, California Department of Fish and Game's fish hatchery in Rancho Cordova and the federal forest genetics facility Jan. 10, according to the affidavit. FBI agents followed the trio and the paid FBI informant working undercover to the three sites. At the U.S. Forest Service's Institute of Forest Genetics facility in Placerville, agents watched the four enter the property and walk around the grounds. Their movements were filmed by the agents with a video camera. After they departed, McDavid told the group that human casualties resulting from their planned bombings would be acceptable, according to a report from the FBI's confidential source.

At a Jan. 9 meeting with the source, according to the affidavit, agents learned that the group intended to obtain materials for a homemade explosive device from grocery and hardware stores, and to begin preparing the chemicals to be used in the device by following a recipe in a book titled "Poor Man's James Bond." As the three defendants moved around the Sacramento region last week they discussed and bought materials they would need to build explosive devices and agents captured some of those conversations on video and audio recordings, according to the affidavit. The three were arrested, the affidavit says, after leaving the Kmart store on Bell Road carrying bags containing respirator masks, rubber gloves, bleach, glass cleaner and glassware. McDavid was carrying a notebook with "a hand-drawn diagram of what appeared to be the grounds" of the forest genetics facility, the FBI affidavit says. The notebook also contained hand-drawn diagrams of "what appeared to be pipe bombs, as well as lists of ingredients for creating homemade explosives." ....

McDavid and the confidential source were in Philadelphia in June for a protest at the 2005 Biotechnology Industry Organization's annual trade conference, where McDavid offered training to others on how to construct and use Molotov cocktails, according to the affidavit. The affidavit says McDavid advocated violent protest and told the confidential source of his desire to kill a police officer, expressing regret that he was not involved in an altercation between protesters and police that resulted in one officer's death.

More here


There are increasing concerns about the future security of the UK's energy supplies and the inadequacy of the Government's current energy policy. Given the prospect of Britain becoming a major importer of Russian gas in the not-too-distant future, President Putin's recent decision to turn off the supply to the Ukraine vindicated these concerns.

There is currently a mix of energy sources for generating electricity. Nuclear provides about 20pc, coal-fired power stations 33pc, gas-fired 40pc, with the remainder met by a miscellany including oil-fired stations (1pc) and renewable sources (3pc-4pc). Most of the electricity from renewables is hydropower, though an increasing amount is from the costly and heavily subsidised wind farms. British North Sea fields still provide 90pc of gas supply but, reflecting the faster-than-expected decline in our reserves, 10pc is imported via the European gas network.

This relatively happy and secure situation will not persist. It is expected that most of our ageing nuclear stations will be decommissioned by 2020, and by early that decade will probably only account for a mere 3pc of total electricity generation. In addition, the DTI expects that coal-fired stations will account for around 16pc of electricity by 2020 (half of today's proportion) as EU directives to cut emissions force the closure of capacity. Taking the reductions in nuclear and coal together, this represents a loss of capacity of around one third.

The DTI's policy response to this huge loss of capacity was discussed in some detail in the 2003 Energy White Paper*. There were two strands to the proposed policies. Firstly, there was an emphasis on greater energy efficiency. But energy efficiency has been a policy priority for the past 30 years yet, with rising affluence and economic growth, electricity demand has risen relentlessly and it is currently around 60pc higher than 30 years ago. Moreover, the UK is already a relatively energy-efficient country. Short of raising prices to prohibitively expensive levels and/or introducing restrictions on use, the prospects for major energy savings seem fanciful.

Secondly, the White Paper suggested that the expected capacity loss should be replaced by very substantial capacity increases in both renewables and gas. New nuclear capacity was not an option. The DTI's optimistic, if not totally unrealistic, targets for the renewables' share of electricity supply were 10pc by 2010 and 20pc by 2020. (The DTI referred to the 2020 target as an "aspiration".) Much of the increase in supply was to come from wind - both offshore and onshore. But there are major problems with wind power. The turbines do not generate any electricity when the wind does not blow and when wind speeds exceed 55mph they are, apparently, shut down for fear of damage. A world of gently and steadily spinning blades is one restricted to the world of the Teletubbies. They need, therefore, back up from other sources because electricity cannot be stored in bulk. Moreover, the unpredictability of electricity generation from wind can cause "supply and demand balancing'' operating problems for the National Grid.

Much of this "dash for wind'' policy is driven by the Government's targets for the reduction in carbon emissions, firstly, as agreed under the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change for a 12.5pc cut between 1990 and 2008/12 and, secondly, reflecting its self-imposed target of a 60pc cut by 2050. But, as the House of Lords** concluded last year, the agreements under the Kyoto Protocol, even if the targets were met, would have little effect on the rates of global warming. And it now looks as though most of the EU member states will miss their Kyoto targets. The Government's "dash for wind'' policy looks thoroughly flawed.

Even if the 20pc target for renewables is met in 2020, natural gas would still have to be the energy source for around 60pc of electricity generation. Moreover, because of the rapid depletion of the North Sea reserves, it is expected that about 80pc of the gas will have to be imported. In other words, about half of our electricity supply will rely on imported gas from countries including Russia and Algeria. This policy is not just complacent, it is downright reckless. The country's economy could be held to ransom at any time by Mr Putin and his friends.

This dreadful prospect can, of course, be averted by a new programme of advanced nuclear power stations. The Government does, at last, seem to recognise the problem and in November 2005 announced an energy review for a "clean and secure future''. And, yes nuclear power did get a mention. But, given the years needed to develop new nuclear capacity, time is running out.



We greens spend a lot of time obsessing about how life as we know it is likely to end: in a slow, painful miasma of greenhouse gases; in the violent cross fire of a nuclear gang war; in mass ignominy, dead and bug-eyed in our folding chairs after endless rounds of fruitless policy discussions. But what the heck do we really know? Before the car was invented, people worried that the whole world would eventually be knee-deep in horse manure. Really, they did.

Environmentalism, by definition, is about life and death. But what kind? Depends who you ask. I talked to a few people to identify the most common end-of-the-world, planet-busting scenarios. Then I talked to a few more to find out how likely it is that those things will happen. My point is not to make you throw in the towel, but to learn to accept the things we cannot change -- and continue to work at a frenzied but life-affirming pace to change the other ones, before they do us in.


Nanotechnology, the manipulation of wee things like molecules and atoms, may have enormous, positive implications for the planet. But big-frontal-lobes like nanotechie Eric Drexler and Sun Microsystems cofounder Bill Joy have predicted that self-replicating nano-robots will eventually run amok, converting everything into "gray goo." You think it's funny? Try this on for size: Adidas has introduced a running shoe with a microprocessor capable of performing 5 million calculations per second so you can avoid shin splints. You're gonna be in deep goo indeed when your smelly trainers hack into NORAD from the bottom of your gym bag. The bad news: Some critics -- such as the Canadian nano-watchdog ETC Group, authors of the controversial paper The Big Down -- fear that we will goof and alter life irrevocably. Thus, they advocate putting the brakes on nanotech.

The good news: According to Christine Peterson, founder of the Foresight Nanotech Institute, nano-scientists are developing neato green stuff like cheaper, stronger solar cells, and are working toward earth-loving goals such as zero-waste manufacturing and new chemical-remediation techniques.

Big-Ass Impact

Something to think about during yoga: the earth resides in a swarm of 300,000 or so asteroids that travel around the sun with us like pesky gnats. The probability of a weighty asteroid hitting our planet is slight, but such an impact could be substantial. According to the B612 Foundation, a group of scientists aiming to alter the orbit of asteroids on humanity's behalf, a large (one-kilometer diameter) Near Earth Asteroid would explode with the energy of 70,000 megatons of TNT if it hit our planet. Holy vinyasa! While 65 percent of the one-km NEAs have been identified as non-threats, 35 percent remain an unnerving mystery.

The bad news: These kindly scientists need cash, international cooperation, and leadership. "No one is responsible for protecting earth from asteroid impacts," explains Rusty Schweickart, chair of the B612 Foundation (the name comes from the title character's asteroid home in The Little Prince).

The good news: According to the B612 folks, we now have the capability to anticipate and prevent an impact. They even designed a space tractor to tow or push away an NEA. And according to Near Earth Asteroid Tracking -- a celestial observatory funded by NASA to study asteroids and comets that goes by the happy acronym NEAT -- big asteroids impact the earth only once every 1,000 centuries on average.

Big-Ass Eruption

Krakatoa and Mount St. Helens are mere pimples compared to supervolcanoes -- biggy-sized pustules capable of spewing enough magma, dust, and chemicals into the atmosphere to alter life on a global scale. Yellowstone National Park, that suppurate land of wolves and geysers and snow machines, is the caldera of a supervolcano, a source of wild internet rumor and Pompeii-ish dread. According to the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, another catastrophic caldera-forming eruption would likely alter global weather patterns and, um, "human activity." Can you hear the distant drums? Oh my God, people, that's my heart beating!

The bad news: According to the U.S. Geological Survey, hazardous volcanic activity will continue, and because of increasing population, development, and air traffic, human exposure to it is increasing. Oh, and when it comes to preventing a volcanic eruption, we can't do diddly.

The good news: The ash from an eruption makes for one heck of a pretty sunset ... no, seriously: Programs like the USGS National Volcano Early Warning System can assess the hazards and alert those at risk. "It's not as if something is going to go kaboom in the middle of the night and nobody is going to know about it," says Tom Murray, a USGS scientist based in Anchorage. And although Yellowstone sits above a hotspot, YVO has not detected evidence of an imminent eruption.

Nukular Annihilation

Remember when Sting hoped the Russians loved their children too? Join me now in hoping that the uranium-enriching nations of France, China, Great Britain, India, and Pakistan (and possibly Israel, North Korea, and Iran) are all concerned with posterity. Oh, and speaking of generations, you're probably wondering what time it is on the Doomsday Clock created by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947 as a symbol of nuclear danger. Answer: It has been seven minutes to midnight since 2002. The clock will be re-calibrated in 2006, taking into consideration not only nukes but also other threats to humankind, such as biological weapons.

The bad news: Some people out there are seeking the biggest, baddest weapons of mass destruction they can get, and may not be concerned with Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists-type publicity stunts. (Of course, there are those -- and I won't name names [IRAN] -- who claim they're just gathering the ingredients for civilian power.)

The good news: According to Kennette Benedict, executive director of the Bulletin, the U.S. and Europe could turn back the clock if they collectively spent a mere $10 billion in the next few years to secure the remaining bomb-making nuclear material still in Russia. "It's a doable thing," she says.

The Rapture

Some evangelical Christians believe that, at a conveniently unspecified moment -- perhaps during Nip/Tuck -- true Christians will be transported to heaven in an event known as The Rapture. According to the Rapture Index (a thinly disguised blog of superstition and hate as far as this reporter can tell), you'd better throw some extra granola bars in your heavenly go-box, because we're at "fasten your seatbelts." Among the Rapture Index's somewhat redundant categories are climate, wild weather, and floods, all top scorers at five points apiece. "Beast government," meanwhile, brings in a disappointing three points.

The bad news: End-timers tend to believe "things are getting worse and worse and there's nothing human beings can do about it," says Bruce David Forbes, a religious studies professor at Morningside College. "If you have that view, why would you try to improve anything in the world?"

The good news: Not only do many mainstream Christians not believe in the Rapture, it's also as likely to happen as, say, Pleistocene rewilding. As Forbes, coauthor of Rapture, Revelation, and The End Times: Exploring the Left Behind Series, points out, history is littered with people who thought they knew when the end was near.

Coming to a Boil

Last but not least is everyone's favorite: the death-by-carbon-emissions scenario. But exactly how does global warming kill? Will we get swept up in a swirl of chaotic weather, drown in a pool of melted ice sheets, or succumb to a bevy of hot-weather-loving diseases? All of the above. Maybe. According to Susan Joy Hassol, one of the lead authors of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, we're already committed to about another 1 degree Fahrenheit of global warming in this century, which our species could likely adapt to, albeit at some cost. But a worst-case scenario -- in which we lollygag on coming up with energy alternatives and instead burn all the oil and coal we can scrape out of the earth, thus raising average global temperatures 5 to 10 degrees F -- involves, at least by my interpretation, the following Rapture Index categories: floods, plague, wild weather, oil supply/price, global turmoil, beast government, and apostasy.

The bad news: While the rest of the world is trying to deal with this issue, the U.S. sorely needs a national policy that limits CO2 emissions. "We're still speeding in the wrong direction," says Hassol.

The good news: By taking the necessary measures to address global warming, the U.S. could also decrease our dependency on foreign oil, clean up our air, improve our health, and boost our economy. "We can slow the rate and magnitude of global warming," says Hassol. "We have the technologies and we know what we have to do."

The really good news: We might even do it.

From Grist Magazine, 10 January 2006


John Kerry and Al Gore both attended an Aspen, Colorado conference of 120 leaders in government, religion, media, and science over the weekend of October 6 to 8 with the goal of setting an agenda to address a perceived gap between the science on climate change and action on climate change. The conference was sponsored by the Yale School of Forestry and details can be found on pages 24-25 of the document here. The other participants were a who's who of the environmental community. Among the most controversial of the recommendations that I found from the conference was the following:

The Education group recommended incorporation of climate-change content into K-12 curricula and teacher-certification standards (using the occasion of the 2007 review of the National Science Education Standards), as well as into instructional technologies, devices, and software products, including video games and educational simulations such as SimCity.

I am concerned about how balanced the curricula approach to climate-change can be, given the general black-white treatment of "truth" in K-12 education. But I am even more concerned about what requirements would need to be met for teacher-certification on the issue. Would science teachers merely be required to attend educational seminars on the topic or would they be required to agree with portions of the climate change agenda that remain in question?

Finally, given that the conference is focussed on the gap between science and action, will the Education Group's recommended curricula also include "action" as part of the educational curricula? And will a variety of action agendas be included in such curricula or is the appropriate action list confined to accepting the Kyoto Protocol or an analogous international mechanism?

From the Commons Blog


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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