Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I am rather excited about the new changes at Xcel Energy. Hopefully this new pro-wind CEO of theirs follows through with his amazing announcement.


Dick Kelly, who replaced Wayne Brunetti as CEO of Xcel Energy on July 1, told a receptive luncheon crowd at the South Dakota Wind Energy Conference on September 12 (see related story) that "we're a big supporter of wind. We think it is an important part of the United States energy policy. We just need to keep working on [renewable energy supplies]. And at Xcel Energy we will do that."

Kelly, who began working for Xcel predecessors 38 years ago as a meter reader, reviewed the purchase of electricity from wind power across the Xcel service territory that spans 10 states and serves four million customers. Xcel currently buys power from about 900 MW of wind power, and expects that to increase to 2,500 MW by 2012. In order to achieve that level of wind supply in the Xcel system, he said, more transmission lines will need to be built. "Where the wind blows - that's not where people live." Xcel Energy has launched a $160 million project to help solve that problem by adding high- and medium-voltage power lines to increase the transmission capacity from the Buffalo Ridge in southwestern Minnesota to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn. Those lines are expected to be in service by 2007.

Kelly also called for changes in the regulation of utilities that would further facilitate wind power development. He suggested that financial ratings agencies are beginning to place obligations to buy wind power from independent power producers on the company's balance sheet, even though the company doesn't own the projects. He called for regulators to help the company address that issue.

Kelly also said that "the utility should have the same opportunity to benefit from wind development that independent developers have." However, independent power producers start receiving a return on their investment as soon as they begin producing power, while utilities must wait until the next rate case is heard by regulators before they can begin to recover their investment. With new rules for cost recovery, Kelly said, utilities can become directly involved in the investment in wind farms.

Finally, he called for coherent, cohesive policies. He cited the varying renewable energy standards that have been adopted in various states, as well as the inconsistency in federal energy policies. However, he said, given a consistent policy, regardless of what it is, "if you give us a challenge and say that you want [to meet a particular renewables goal], we'll deliver that. But the rules have to be consistent and apply fairly to everyone; then we can play the game." Kelly went on, "I don't know what the number is, whether it's 5% or 10% or 20%. In time it needs to grow, there's no doubt about it, because the science is pretty sound that we do need to do something. So, we need the rules to be clarified so we can play, then we'll play and we'll deliver what you need. We are very sensitive to what the customers need, and we're very sensitive to the environment ourselves. You don't have to drag Xcel kicking and screaming onto the side [of using renewables]. It's the right thing to do, and we will do the right thing. Whatever the community wants, whatever the customer is looking for, we promise that we'll deliver that to you, which is very exciting!"

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Dick Cheney and the Quail that got away. Well, that is how it seems - or rather his shooting of another person has gotten away.

Yeah, there are concerns over whether the administration is secretive. How is this new? The Bush Administration is consistently secretive - I don't care as much about that as what their actual decisions are.

Some have brought up that the shooting could have been alcohol related. Also, the birds on this ranch are rather stupid and timid. They are easy shots. So why did he miss and hit another hunter? Oh, well. How about we put the story in a cartoon , maybe even a bumper sticker, and move onto more important issues like:

1) The National Debt and fiscal sanity
2) Fossil Fuel Dependence / Global Warming
3) Healthcare
4) Election and political contribution reform
5) War against terrorism / Global stabilization

I do not think many partisans would disagree that these are important issues that require thought. Let's not make a consistent every-day Watergate style coverage of this pathetic shooting. Let it works its own way out while we concentrate on more important matters.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Roscoe Bartlett - redeeming the Republican Party - or an exceptional radical?

Roscoe is no doubt a staunch Conservative. He believes in less government,is anti-choice, and homophobic. But he also believes that Peak Oil - or peak production of worldwide oil - is a BIG issue. The fact this looming crisis has gone ignored speaks more of the post-Carter political landscape.

In his State of the Union address last month, President Bush said the country is "addicted to oil" and highlighted the need to invest in alternative energy sources.

"I would have hoped that he would have said more," Bartlett said. "Two words were conspicuously absent, conservation and efficiency."

Representative Bartlett of Maryland founded the Peak Oil Caucus in 2005. He has created a bipartisan movement that will grow in momentum as oil prices spiral further to the sky. Members as of November 2005 are:

Time will tell how effective this Peak Oil Caucus will be. Representative Bartlett can get 2 individual visits with President Bush to discuss the subject. He has also collaborated with several of congressmen to get bills passed to help Americas true energy problems. I feel he is doing what he can to prepare our country. Regardless if the Republicans stay in charge or not - this group will become an important part of American politics for years to come.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sweden versus Minnesota in renewables... ( guess who's winning?)

It seems Sweden is VERY serious about kicking the oil habit - prior to peak oil production even. Interesting how a responsible an proactive government can actually improve the lives of a country long-term. Of course in America we sell ourselves to short-term interests - mortgaging the future generations standard of living. Example - the Minnesota Republican party:

"State Capitol lobbyists recently received a two-page invitation to a fundraiser for the House Republican caucus, signed by the influential chairmen of two House committees.

The letter listed the Republican majority's "accomplishments" for regulated industries, which included such pro-industry goals as blocking renewable-energy standards, and a reminder that the same issues will be before the committee in 2006." - Star Tribune 8-Feb-06

And even the House Speaker states: "I probably wouldn't have written the letter that way," Sviggum said. "I can tell you with absolute certainty that it is not pay-to-play in our Legislature."

SURE it isn't pay-to-play. All Republicans want to abort any attempts to increase the amount of renewables produced by our state. DFLers highly support the bill - along with ONE Republican:Rep. Dennis Ozment ofRosemount. (You GOPers are pathetic.)

Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul wants 20% of Minnesotan electricity to be renewable by 2020. Proponents say that fast-rising fossil fuel prices and public concern about global warming will help their cause and that almost 90 percent of Minnesotans back the principle of relying less on oil. Renewable energy accounts for about 2 or 3 percent of Minnesota's total, Anderson said, and the state imports a greater percentage of its electricity than any other state. ( Star-Trib )

Currently Sweden produces 26% of their electricity from Renewables and plan to be oil-free by 2020. It goes to show that politicians can talk all they want about being "energy independent" - but they must actually invest in that goal. I have seen too many Republicans tout this theme - they can make plenty of statements but I prefer action to words.

With such a pathetic track record - and with few Independent Republicans left - I must turn my back on considering the local Elephants.


A little note on Independent Republicans:

The Independent-Republican Party (I-R) was the name used for the party from November 15, 1975 until September 23, 1995. The party added "Independent" to its name after the Watergate affair in an attempt to distance itself from the national party. During most of the 1970s and into the early 1980s more moderate leadership prevailed within the party, but the party gradually grew more conservative. Several more moderate Republican candidates and officeholders have now left the party (including former governor Arne Carlson and former U.S. Senator Dave Durenberger), with some of them moving to the Independence Party of Minnesota, which considers itself a centrist party.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Moving America Forward?

There is a California organization that thinks it can "prove" why we went to Iraq. They believe the same rhetoric even our President hasn't repeated very often lately:

**LIE #1: That Saddam killed his own people sorry -
the Truth: KURDS are not his people. He committed crimes against another ethnic group. )

**LIE #2: Saddam and Bin Laden were good pals
the Truth:When Iraq under Saddam Hussein ordered a military invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, Bin Laden called for jihad against Saddam and asked the Saudi government for permission to send jihadists to protect the country and help liberate Kuwait.

**Lie #3: Those killed by our military and coalition forces are all terrorists:
the Truth: Apart from the children and families we accidentally murder( I will not discuss my experiences now) - MOST of the problems in Iraq are due to ethnic and tribal tensions that have been in existence for centuries. These tensions often lead to prolonged periods of violence and will most likely culminate in a civil war if we leave Iraq ( or occur while we are there). Those killed are not terrorists to America - but to "their own people" - or those of other ethnic or tribal backgrounds.

**Deception: "the terrorists know they can not defeat our military -- they can only win by beating down the morale of the American people."
the Truth: While I agree that the terrorists going head-on-head against our military would not survive - it is also ridiculous to think they will do this.

Our military cannot "root out the terrorists" - even with billions of dollars thrown at them. The military fights conventional wars - it is not smart enough to get all the terrorists - unless we want a "thought police" and a neverending spy campaign on all civilians. To me this war on terror brings these ideas into the acceptable realm of government activities.

And apart from the ads - let's dig into the administration a little with regards to terrorists:
"We do not negotiate with terrorists. We put them out of business," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

I was in Iraq when Mr. McClellan made this statement - while we were dealing with terrorists - supposedly "negotiating" with them. This business of not doing so is utter crap. We deal with terrorists if our government thinks they are of future value (i.e. war with Iran). If they are not of value - we lock them up until they are freed or actually proven to be enemies of America.

And even if these groups are "put out of business" - do we really need a "graceful degredation" of an organization over 30 years while giving them all the support and protection that they need? To me it is pathetic and a waste of resources. But that is what is happening.


The truth is always more complex than the simple arguments used in debates. Nothing is simple. The war isn't solely about oil - nor has it nothing to do with terrorism. It has parts of each - and it seems that only looking back on this war 30 years from now will we be able to see it for what it truly is.

I believe this moment in time is critical to the future of humanity. We can either use Iraq as a stepping stone to a World War over Oil - or we can change our violent and consumption mentalities and create a better world. I truly think we will blow this opportunity for the future of Earth - which is fine because those who have learned this lesson most likely will not be reborn here again ( unless they choose to learn another lesson here).

Earth isn't here to become a utopia - the Garden of Eden will never be on Earth - assuming it ever was . Those on Earth are destined to continue making the same mistakes over and over until we realize certain truths - like preventing horrible things from happening instead of letting the. There is a reason history repeats itself: those who have learned from it do not stay around for long. The lesson being learned they move onto another world - be it "better" or not.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I think it is always good to de-mythize certain untruths. Especially at the beginnings of the month. I found these on The Transportation Alliance website:

The Top Ten Transportation Myths

1. Gas tax revenue goes into the General Fund and is used for all sorts of things besides highway projects.

The Truth: Revenue from the state's gas tax is constitutionally dedicated to the Highway Trust Fund and must be used for "highway purposes."

2. Money from an increase in the gas tax will be drained away by expensive passenger rail projects.

The Truth: Gas tax money cannot be used for transit (See number 1). Also, passenger rail projects are not any more expensive than highway projects in the metropolitan area.

3. An increase in the gas tax will pose an undue burden on residents.

The Truth: A 5 cent increase in the gas tax will cost the average drive $40 to $45 per year - less than one evening on the town or tickets to a major sporting event. And an increase of 5 cents would generate over $150 million each year for needed highway projects. The gas tax has not been increased since 1988 and our 20 cent gas tax is now only worth about 13 cents in purchasing power due to inflation.

4. The Department of Transportation can't spend any more money.

The Truth: Mn/DOT, counties and cities have a backlog of highway projects planned for the next 10-20 years that could be moved up with more revenue. It takes some time to get these projects going in a department that has been starved for funding and hasn't been able to maintain the staff for huge construction programs. That's exactly why we need stable funding sources like the gas tax.

5. Minnesota doesn't have a congestion problem, what's the big deal?

The Truth: According to the Texas Transportation Institute, the growth in congestion in the Twin Cities Metropolitan area is second only to Atlanta. The time and fuel we waste stuck in traffic costs each of us over $600 per year. That's the "congestion tax" we're currently paying.

6. No one wants to use transit.

The Truth: Transit systems are struggling to meet demand. Park-and-Ride lots are overflowing in the metropolitan are and bus systems in Greater Minnesota don't have the resources to serve everyone who needs bus service. In fact, 16 counties in Minnesota don't have bus service throughout the county and 6 counties have no public transit service at all. In 2000, Minnesota's public transit systems provided about 89 million rides.

7. The public doesn't support increased spending for transportation.

The Truth: Poll after poll shows that the public wants something done to alleviate congestion and improve highway safety.

8. Business interests don't support increased funding for transportation.

The Truth: Business owners are particularly concerned about congestion. Businesses lose money when workers and goods are stuck in traffic. This year, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce organized a transportation coalition that supported a 5 cent increase in the state's gas tax to fund needed highway improvements as well as additional funding for transit to get workers to their jobs.

9. All of the revenue from the sales tax on motor vehicles goes to fund the transportation system.

The Truth: While there have been attempts to dedicate the sales tax from motor vehicles to transportation, historically this sales tax has been treated like all other sales taxes with the revenue deposited in the general fund. This changed a few years ago when the Governor cut license tab fees and used a portion of the money from the sales tax on motor vehicles to make up for a cut in funding to the Highway Trust Fund. Dedicating all of the money from this sales tax to transportation is one of the options the legislature should seriously consider.

10. 2002 wasn't the year to deal with a transportation funding package, we'll do it next year.

The Truth: We've heard that line for about 14 years! The last time the gas tax was increased was 1988. The fact is, the legislature and the Governor failed to address a critical state issue. Voters should hold them accountable for their inability to deal with this problem when they go to the polls in November. Mobility isn't something we can afford to wait for. Our economy depends on it.

it has been rather apparent that Pawlenty and even Ventura could have gone even further in finding decent and stable revenue for MNDOT. At least Minnesota Voters Can Dedicate Funds to Transit - in a November 2006 statewide referendum. I am rather confident it will pass - even though Pawlenty vetoed it. Of course I will be vetoing him as well this fall - though I cannot say that he won't win ( especially if the DFL picks someone lame to run again).