Thom Hartmann on the News: November 19, 2013

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Thom Hartmann on the News: November 19, 2013

You need to know this.  Our nation has seen the dangers of coal mining and drilling for natural gas, but few of us have heard of coal gasification.  That's because it's a highly dangerous process of creating synthetic natural gas, by setting coal on fire and injecting it with oxygen and water.  And, if an Australian energy company has their way, Americans may become very familiar with this dangerous process.  Link Energy is just one step away from starting the first coal gasification project in our nation in Campbell County, Wyoming.  To make matters worse, they want to try this treacherous process while the coal is still deep underground, and the project would take place near a major, regional aquifer.  Despite all the risks, Link Energy touts the process as so-called “clean coal” technology, because it leaves underground the harmful gases typically emitted by regular coal burning.  However, environmental groups disagree, and argue that the process is largely untested, and it poses too great of a risk for our water supply.  When our government conducted a coal gasification pilot test back in the 1970's, it led to groundwater contamination from benzene that took 23 years and more than $10 million dollars to clean up.  The fact is, there's no such thing as clean coal, and there's no safe way to extract and use fossil fuels. Not only do we need to stop the current methods of mining and drilling for oil and gas, but we need to say “no way” to this new technology that could cause even bigger disasters.

In screwed news... Arizona's private prisons are telling inmates to pray when they get sick.  A new report by the American Friends Service Committee documented “delays and denials of care, lack of timely emergency treatment, failure to provide medication and medical devices,” and even more evidence of medical neglect in Arizona's for-profit prisons.  The problems occur in that state's private prison system, because their desire is to maximize profits, even at the expense of prisoners' health and safety.  Under the Eight Amendment, prisons are required to provide medical care, but both the ACLU and the AFSC say that basic standards aren't being met.  According to the ACLU, the medical neglect has led to “preventable injury, amputation, disfigurement, and even death,” of many inmates.  An ACLU lawsuit was recently granted class-action status, and they are leading the fight to ensure that every prisoner in Arizona has access to proper medical care.

In the best of the rest of the news...

The Sacramento Superior Court says that California has the right to hold polluters accountable.  Just five days before that state's fifth cap-and-trade carbon auction, that court ruled against big business, and said that California's carbon-emission permit system is constitutional.  Seven years ago, when the program was originally instituted, the California Chamber of Commerce and other business groups filed lawsuits, claiming that the state's cap-and-trade system amounted to unconstitutional taxes.  And, they argued that the process will penalize California's largest industries.  The Superior Court, however, was not persuaded by the big business arguments.  That court's ruling stated that California's Air Resource Board has “the discretion to adopt a cap-and-trade program and to 'design' a system” to regulate carbon pollution.  Erica Morehouse, an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, said, “Today's decision marks another win for the Golden State's clean energy economy and the communities across California hit hardest by climate pollution.”  It's unlikely that business groups will give up on their fight for unfettered pollution, but for now, California's cap-and-trade system remains in tact.

According to RadCast.org, radiation levels are down slightly from yesterday's readings, but some areas are still seeing spikes that are cause for concern.  Near the East Coast, levels in Charleston, West Virginia are sitting at 43 counts per minute, but spikes are all the way up to 67.  Gainsville, Georgia is hitting 55 counts per minute, and spikes there are as high as 73.  In the Midwest, Frederic, Wisconsin is down to 48 counts per minute from 53 the previous day, and Craig, Montana is down to 41.  Levels in the Southwest are hovering close to what they were yesterday, but spikes are much lower than previous readings.  In Chino Valley, Arizona, levels are hovering at 54 counts per minute, but spikes are at 70 – down from 75 yesterday.  And, Chandler, Arizona is still sitting at 44 counts per minute, but spikes are down from 68 to 56.  RadCast.org reminds us that their alert level is 100 counts per minute, and they're monitoring areas all around our nation to keep us informed.

And finally… It sounds like something out of a Cheech and Chong movie, but the world's most eco-friendly car is made entirely of hemp.  The car, known as the Kestrel, was designed in Canada, where unlike the US, the government supports the industrial hemp industry.  The vehicle is fully electric, it can go 100 miles between charges, and it has a top speed of about 55 miles an hour.  The body of the vehicle is hemp-composite, which is lighter than glass, yet entirely impact resistant.  The Kestrel is going into full production later this year, and it's expected to have an affordable price tag.  Although the Kestrel isn't made from the type of grass that will get you high, this hemp-car is definitely creating some green technology buzz.