Archive for April 18, 2011
Iowa Progressive Radio: This Week On The Fallon Forum
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Monday, we talk about creationism vs evolution. Despite over 40 years of state and federal court decisions, a recent survey showed 15% of American high school science instructors teach so-called “Intelligent Design” in their classrooms, sometimes to the exclusion of evolution. Dr. Charles Goldman joins me tonight for the conversation.
Tuesday, we'll discuss the Boswell-Latham showdown in the new Third Congressional District. Sorry folks, but I have to speak truth to Democratic Party power and tell you that if the Democrat Establishment wants this seat to remain in the “D” column, it will lean so hard on Boswell that even this entrenched relic from a bygone political era will feel compelled to retire. Face it: Boswell can't beat Latham. The last time Iowa had a congressional district much like the new Third, the younger, quasi-moderate Greg Ganske beat entrenched Congressman Neal Smith. It'll happen again unless Boswell steps aside or gets beat in a primary by an independent-minded Democrat with populist appeal to both rural and urban voters. (And just in case you're wondering, I have less than zero inclination to throw my hat in that ring again.)
Wednesday, we'll kick-off the discussion with a look at what affect proposed changes in federal clean air standards might have on Iowa. We'll also talk about an exclusive story in today's DM Register, Political donations by utility rile critics. It's hard to take seriously those who insist there's no connection between MidAmerican Energy's generous contributions to key politicians and those politicians' support for MidAmerican's proposed nuclear power plant.
Thursday, we'll talk with State Representative Dan Kelley (D-Newton) at 7:00 and State Senator Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) at 7:30. I can't say where either of these conversations will go, and I'm not predicting we'll find much common ground between Dan and Brad. But you never know, as the freshman lawmaker from Newton is already carving out a niche for himself as one who works well with members of the other party.
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Iowa City Students Rally For Teachers
Update: About 40 teachers and supporters rallied Monday afternoon to protest the planned elimination of 22 teachers. The Iowa City Press-Citizen reported today that the Iowa City School District will cut 22 teaching jobs – 10 elementary positions and 12 junior high and high school teachers.
Left: Students chanting for teachers. Photo by Tom Jacobs
Monday, April 18 · 5:00pm – 5:30pm
Corner of S. Clinton and Harrison, opposite the Post Office, Iowa City
Iowa City Community School District is facing serious cuts in staffing
and potential teacher layoffs. Join us in voicing our concern to the
school board and state legislators. We cannot allow our community's
children to shoulder the burden of the state's financial problems.
Protecting teachers means protecting our future!
Spread the word!
Organized by the Iowa City Education Association
Facebook page created By Audrey Coleman
…And if you're planning on being in the Riverside area around 4:00 pm today:
U.S. Senatory Chuck Grassley
Monday, April 18, 2011
4 – 5 p.m.
Riverside City Community Building
81 E. First St., Riverside
Iowa House Representative Speaks Against Nuclear Power Bill
[Editor's Note: The Iowa House of Representatives is expected to debate HF 561 this week, pertaining to removing financial hurdles for investment in new nuclear reactors in Iowa].
by Representative Nate Willems, Iowa House District 29
One major piece of policy legislation that remains before this year’s Legislature is a bill brought by MidAmerican Energy asking the State to change the application process that a utility company must go through before building a new power plant and raising their customers’ rates. MidAmerican has expressed strong interest in building a nuclear power plant in Iowa. It is estimated to cost between $1 billion to $3 billion to build a new nuclear power plant and could take twenty years to complete such a project. Opponents of this bill have raised a number of complaints.
First, there continues to be concern about the safety of a nuclear plant and the disposal of nuclear waste. In the wake of the tsunami in Japan, and resulting damage to a nuclear power plant, these concerns have been magnified recently. No two nuclear plants in the United States are identical, and there is concern of whether the technology has advanced to the point where a new nuclear plant is acceptably safe. On the other hand, Iowa is not near a fault line like Japan or California, so the risks of damage from an earthquake are pretty small here. There may always be some degree of risk in any nuclear plant, and the alternatives all have their own difficulties. Coal-fired power plants are not clean sources of energy and further the problem of global climate change. Natural gas is cleaner than coal, though it still contributes significant amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, is subject to large swings in price based on global demand and must be pumped to Iowa from elsewhere. Wind and solar are great additions to our energy portfolio, though the technology does not seem to have advanced to figure out how to adequately store this type of energy. When compared to the alternatives, nuclear advocates can make a case that nuclear energy is the least objectionable option.
Next, the substance of the bill would allow a utility company like MidAmerican to raise rates up front to cover the costs of studying and building a power plant. This would be a major change and groups like the AARP are strongly opposed to the increases in utility rates this bill would cause. Advocates of the bill argue that we are facing a “pay me now or pay me later” reality. Iowa needs more base load energy capacity and over the long term consumers may be asked to pay more anyway.
The aspect of this bill that causes me to be most skeptical is the idea of shifting the risk. It is very possible that a utility company could get five years into a new power plant project, having spent tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, and determine it just will not work. In that situation, when it is time for a company to cut its losses, the question is whose losses are we cutting? Traditionally, the company and its shareholders would bear that risk and incur that loss. This bill would shift the risk on to ratepayers and I have a very hard time supporting that idea. In essence, this appears to be another instance where private industry is asking government to socialize the risk but privatize the reward.
We do need a wide variety of clean, sustainable sources of energy. We do need to do a better job of conservation and making intelligent decisions on our energy use as consumers. However, unless this bill is significantly altered, it is just very difficult for me to support placing the risk in the development of a new nuclear power plant on consumers in the form of higher utility bills.
~Representative Nate Willems is a graduate of Georgetown University, the University of Iowa Law School and practices employment law in Linn County, Iowa. He has served in the Iowa House of Representatives since January 2009. Willems has announced his candidacy for the new State Senate District 48 in 2012.
Cornucopia Institute Challenging Approval of GE Alfalfa
[Editor's Note: This article is reprinted from the April 2011 Cornucopia Institute Newsletter]
On January 27, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the complete deregulation of Monsanto's controversial genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready Alfalfa. Although more than 200,000 public comments were received by the USDA and the White House opposing deregulation of GE alfalfa, Vilsack and the White House wilted in the face of the raw political power of the biotech industry.
The Cornucopia Institute is going into federal court to block the action. Lawyers from the Center for Food Safety are spearheading the lawsuit, which was filed on March 18. Other plaintiffs that are part of the lawsuit include independent alfalfa seed farmers, the California Farmers Union, and organizations such as Beyond Pesticides and the Sierra Club.
Nearly 20 million acres of land across the U.S. are in alfalfa production, making it the fourth most widely grown crop. It is a fundamental protein source for foraging livestock. Alfalfa is also a perennial, meaning that the GE alfalfa's seeds are subject to transport by animals, water, farm equipment, hay bales or other mechanisms and will spring to life in their new environments. Designed to be resistant to Roundup herbicide, GE alfalfa will be much more difficult to eradicate. And with a pollination radius of approximately five miles, bees and other insects will likely carry Monsanto's patented DNA past fence rows and onto neighboring fields, contaminating crops raised for forage and seed.
Jim Munsch, a Cornucopia member and organic beef producer from Coon Valley, Wisconsin, says: “We rely on alfalfa in pasture mix and for winter feed. GE alfalfa means contamination of all alfalfa seeds within a few years. When that happens we will no longer be able to get North American produced alfalfa seed. Our options include giving up organic production at great revenue loss or finding another forage at great cost increase.”
~Mission of the Cornucopia Institute: Seeking economic justice for the family-scale farming community. Through research, advocacy, and economic development our goal is to empower farmers – partnered with consumers – in support of ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food.