solar panels

The Challenge of Renewable Energy Siting

A collective problem requires collective solutions.

By Matthew J. Haugen, Terrain

In 2020, only 4.7% of US energy consumption came from wind, solar, or geothermal sources, which means that we need a lot more renewable energy capacity (alongside electrification, demand reduction, and shutting down fossil fuel production). This will require more land use than our current energy system. Estimates vary on exactly how much, which will depend on variables like the amount of energy we end up deciding to produce, grid integration, technology, and how we deploy the generation infrastructure.

solar panels

Right now, one of the most significant barriers to installing more renewable energy capacity is siting. Myriad federal, state, and local laws dictate where renewables can be placed. A recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) study concluded that setback requirements—how far turbines must be from certain structures—are “the largest siting barrier to wind deployment.” Local opposition has stalled or stopped many proposed projects and has often been backed by fossil fuel interests. Residents’ stated concerns vary widely from place to place, including ecological damage, unsightly views, lowered property values, noise, and health and safety. Some of these concerns are more valid than others, to put it mildly; corporate astroturf campaigns and Facebook-driven misinformation often muddy the waters.

Transitioning to a sustainable energy system will also require upgrading our aging and decrepit energy infrastructure and building out more electricity transmission capacity to both connect renewables to our grids and connect our grids to each other. Another NREL study found that creating a national “supergrid” via modernization and interconnection would accelerate solar and wind adoption, eliminate 35 megatons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, and save consumers $3.6 billion per year. This would prevent situations like last year’s deadly winter power outages in Texas and mitigate the intermittency issues with renewable energy. Unfortunately, attempts to build much-needed new transmission lines have also been seriously hindered by local opposition, especially by the wealthy.

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buffalo shooter taken safely into custody face blacked out

10 People Murdered By White Supremacist In Buffalo

The alleged shooter, taken into custody by police, streamed the murders online where he also posted what has been described as a racist manuscript.

By Jon Queally, Common Dreams

Ten people were killed and another three people wounded in Buffalo, New York on Saturday afternoon by a gunman who opened fire inside a supermarket, a pre-planned shooting that he live-streamed on the internet and evidence indicates was motivated by racial hatred and white supremacist ideology.

buffalo shooter taken safely into custody face blacked out

“This was pure evil,” said Erie County Sheriff John Garcia during a press conference on Saturday. The killings, he said, “was straight-up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community.”

The Buffalo Police Department told news outlets that of 13 people shot, eleven of the victims were African American while two were white. Police said four of the victims were store employees while the others were presumably shoppers or bystanders at the Tops Market located on Jefferson Avenue.

One police official told Buffalo News that the scene at the market was “like walking onto a horror movie, but everything is real.” The official said it was “Armageddon-like” and completely “overwhelming” to witness.

“What started out as a beautiful day in the City of Buffalo has turned into a terrible day, and one of tremendous heartbreak for every member of our community,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.

According to reporting by local news outlet BNO News just after the shooting:

A man has opened fire at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York while live-streaming on Twitch, killing at least 8 people and injuring several others, local officials and witnesses say. He also posted an online manifesto in which he described himself as a white supremacist.

The incident began on early Saturday afternoon when police were called for an active shooter at Tops Markets at 1275 Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo. Upon arrival, officers found victims on the ground outside the store and others inside the building itself.

After police earlier confirmed a suspect was taken into custody and photographs circulated on social media of a man in handcuffs wearing military fatigues, court filings identified the alleged gunman as 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron of Conklin, New York. Arraigned on murder charges he pleaded not guilty to the charges.

One eye-witness who spoke to the Buffalo News immediately after the shooting said, “I just heard shots. Shots and shots and shots.”

The person, who identified himself as Will G., said: “I hid. I just hid. I wasn’t going to leave that room.”

In the wake of the shooting, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said the attack and the murders were being treated as a hate crime based on evidence that there was some “racial animosity” by the shooter.

“I’m not going to specifically talk about or elaborate on what exactly they are right now, but we have evidence in custody right now,” said Flynn, “that shows there is some racial component to these alleged actions.”

Youth strike for climate march Friday for Future. Turin, Italy - March 2022

As The Planet Warms, Let’s Be Clear: We Are Sacrificing Lives For Profits

Climate change is the result of a deadly calculus: human lives are worth risking and even losing over the profits of global corporations.

By Sonali Kolhatkar, Independent Media Institute

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recently dropped a bombshell announcement that should have garnered news headlines in the major global and U.S. media, but did not. New WMO research concludes that “[t]here is a 50:50 chance of the annual average global temperature temporarily reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial level for at least one of the next five years.”

Youth strike for climate march Friday for Future. Turin, Italy - March 2022

WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas explained, “The 1.5 degree Celsius figure is not some random statistic. It is rather an indicator of the point at which climate impacts will become increasingly harmful for people and indeed the entire planet.”

In 2015, the likelihood of reaching that threshold within five years was nearly zero. In 2017 it was 10 percent, and today it is 50 percent. As we continue to spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in dizzying amounts, that percentage spikes with every passing year and will soon reach 100 percent certainty.

When average global temperatures hit the tipping point of 1.5 degrees Celsius, climate scientists predict that most of the Earth’s coral reefs will die off. At 2 degrees Celsius, all will die off. This is the reason why United Nations members coalesced around staving off an average global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius at the last global climate gathering in 2021.

The planet has already heated up by 1.1 degrees Celsius, and the consequences are dire across the globe.

India is experiencing its worst heat wave in 122 years, and neighboring Pakistan has broken a 61-year-old record for high temperatures. Dozens of people have already died as a result of the extreme heat.

In France, farmers “can see the earth cracking every day,” as a record-breaking drought has thrown the country’s agricultural industry into crisis mode.

Here in the United States, across the central and northeastern parts of the country, there is a heat wave so large and so severe that people from Texas to Maine experienced triple-digit temperatures in May.

Even the wealthy enclave of Laguna Niguel in Orange County, Southern California, is on fire, and dozens of homes have been destroyed. Although moneyed elites have far more resources to remain protected from the deadly impacts of climate change compared to the rest of us, occasionally even their homes are in the path of destruction, indicating that nowhere on Earth will be safe on a catastrophically warming planet.

Ironically, as extreme heat waves become more likely with global warming, humans will burn more fossil fuels to power the air conditioning they need to cool off and survive, thereby fueling the very phenomenon that leads to more extreme heat waves.

In such a scenario, it is a massive no-brainer for the world to quickly and without delay transition to renewable energy sources. Instead, President Joe Biden in April announced the sale of new leases for oil and gas companies to drill on public lands, reneging on his campaign platform’s climate pledges.

Biden did so apparently in order to increase domestic fuel supplies and thereby lower gas prices. He also raised the percentage of royalties that companies pay the federal government from 12.5 percent to 18.75 percent. But no amount of dollars saved by consumers or earned in royalties by the federal government can halt the laws of physics and protect the climate.

The New York Times’s Lisa Friedman explained, “The burning of fossil fuels extracted from public land and in federal waters accounts for 25 percent of the greenhouse gases generated by the United States, which is the planet’s second biggest polluter, behind China.” Here is one area where the federal executive branch has control, and yet financial considerations have been dictating responses rather than existential ones.

After climate activists vocally denounced the move, Biden did finally cancel the drilling leases for Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. The Interior Department cited a “lack of industry interest” and “conflicting court rulings,” rather than pressure from activists, as the reason for the cancellation. Regardless, it is a small measure of relief for a planet that is on its way to burning to a crisp.

While Biden (and other lawmakers) claim they are driven by rising inflation and the impact of high gas prices on voters’ pocket books, it turns out the public doesn’t actually want a glut of oil and gas to help lower costs.

A new poll by the National Surveys on Energy and the Environment found that there is no longer skepticism among the public that the effects of climate change are real, as 76 percent of respondents—the highest on record since the poll started—“believe there is solid evidence that temperatures on the planet have risen over the last four decades.”

The poll also notably concluded that “Americans continue to favor reducing greenhouse gas emissions as their preferred approach for staving off the worst impacts of climate change,” and that they “remain skeptical of any pivot from mitigation toward climate policy that prioritizes adaptation, use of geoengineering or subterranean carbon storage.”

So, rather than invest in mitigating climate change or adapting to it—which is what market-driven economies favor—people, sensibly, want to stop the planet from warming in the first place.

Still, there is growing concern among climate scientists that it may already be too late for a transition to renewables. In spite of energy sources like solar and wind becoming rapidly cheaper and more accessible, overall energy consumption is increasing about as fast, as per one recent study. Mark Diesendorf, the author of the study, explained, “it is simply impossible for renewable energy to overtake that retreating target. And that’s no fault of renewable energy. It’s the fault of the growth in consumption and the fact that action has been left too late.”

Because corporate profit-based considerations have constantly dictated our energy use and climate policies, we have effectively decided that major sacrifices of lives—most likely poor people of color—will be worth the pain of relying on fossil fuels for energy.

There is an analogy to be found in the COVID-19 pandemic. For months, scientists sounded the alarm over prevention, endorsing lockdowns, masks, and vaccines to stop the spread of the deadly virus, just as climate scientists issued warnings against global warming for decades. Both science-based campaigns faced uphill battles, each with its own challenges in recommending the most rational guidelines to maximize public safety in spite of financial sacrifices (closing down most businesses and restaurants and canceling major sporting and entertainment events, in the case of COVID-19; promoting solar power subsidies, switching to wind energy, and manufacturing hybrid and electric vehicles, in the case of the climate crisis). All the while, corporate interests and right-wing political opportunists successfully pushed their own agenda in the halls of power, insisting that economic growth was the most important consideration.

Today, even as COVID-19 infection rates are skyrocketing, with cases having risen by 58 percent in the last two weeks alone, mask mandates are being dropped all over the country and COVID-19-related restrictions are ending. This is not because the virus is under control—it is clearly not—but because it’s no longer financially viable for corporate America to sacrifice profits for lives. So, it will sacrifice lives for profit—just as is the case with the climate crisis.

It is worth spelling out this equation so that we know where we are headed.

As the climate changes, we begin to see where the bodies are buried—literally. Water levels in Nevada’s Lake Mead have fallen so dramatically that the remains of at least two human bodies were recently discovered. What other disturbing discoveries are in store for us?

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Sonali Kolhatkar is the founder, host and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute.

war only ends lives

To End The Horror In Ukraine, Go Big, And Go Broad

Amid such suffering and with the risk of escalation increasing by the day, our call must be clear: End the war now.

By Kevin Martin, Common Dreams

The tragic, illegal war of aggression by Russia against Ukraine should end now, with a ceasefire and then a comprehensive peace agreement. It could be based on the previously negotiated 2015 Minsk II agreement, which is quite detailed and balanced in seeking to resolve territorial, political, cultural, and linguistic disputes. What makes this war so ghastly is the eventual outcome was widely known and achievable before Russia invaded, namely Ukrainian neutrality, no NATO membership, and territorial, legal and political accommodations over Crimea and the Donbas region.

war only ends lives

NATO expansion eastward toward Russia’s borders and US/Western post-Cold War triumphalism was and is a problem. It was a strategic mistake to treat Russia–with its justifiably proud history and culture—as a miserable, groveling loser that had no choice but to swallow Western supremacy in Eurasia and the world after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But none of that excuses Russian President Vladmir Putin’s illegal invasion. Moreover, it has backfired horribly, as Finland and Sweden are now likely to join NATO.

Ukraine has the right to defend itself, and US and Western arms manufacturers and politicians are glad to oblige with military aid and weapons transfers, but the risk of escalation, up to and including threats of using nuclear weapons, needs to be taken seriously.

Unfortunately, the conflict also has potentially dire ripple effects. The Middle East and Africa face a serious food security crisis as wheat, other grains and food, and fertilizer prices are soaring from shortages due to the war, which has and will continue to decrease agricultural production in Ukraine and Russia, the breadbasket for hundreds of millions of people.

“I have to say that I am deeply concerned, namely with the risks of hunger becoming widespread in different parts of the world because of the dramatic food security situation we are facing because of the war in Ukraine,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said recently.

The solution to ending this tragic war might well be to go big and go broad, with multilateral negotiations to address areas of common interest to the US, Russia, Ukraine, Europe and the world, on the following issues:

  • End the war now, as noted above. Not one more Ukrainian civilian, or Ukrainian or Russian soldier, needs to die or be maimed for life in this senseless slaughter. As noted, the issues to resolve are clear and well-known to all parties. Let’s get on with peace talks, brokered by whomever is most trusted to bring them to a successful conclusion.
  • Revive negotiations on nuclear disarmament. As the Doomsday Clock stands at a mere 100 seconds to midnight, the two most heavily armed nuclear powers cannot be allowed to dither, or worse, accelerate a nascent new arms race. Immediate, mutual declarations of No First Use policies, thus forswearing the initiation of nuclear hostilities, could ease global fears. Further cuts to strategic, deployed nuclear weapons below New START levels of 1,550 each (which had been discussed as recently as the end of the Obama-Biden Administration) could be made reciprocally, without a treaty. Ditching exorbitant, wasteful plans to squander trillions of dollars on the next generation of nuclear weapons, while encouraging the seven other nuclear powers to do the same, would be another smart move for Washington and Moscow.Russia, the United States and the seven other nuclear nations (China, France, Britain, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea) should support and participate in next month’s First Meeting of States Party to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna. To date, 89 countries have signed the treaty. Lastly, the two nuclear behemoths need to lead on honoring their Article VI commitment to pursue global nuclear disarmament codified in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which will convene its delayed (because of Covid) Review Conference at the UN in New York in August. These issues are of the utmost importance on their own, and the war in Ukraine has added new urgency to the denuclearization agenda.Washington and Moscow already collaborate on many regional nuclear security concerns (Iran and the Middle East, North Korea and Northeast Asia for two), and this work needs to be urgently rejuvenated to avoid nuclear proliferation or threats of war in parts of the world already rife with conflict and instability. China can be brought in on some of these issues if the parties agree (Beijing is already engaged in resolving the Iran and North Korea nuclear problems). Improving US-China-Russian relations in general is crucial to heading off needless and disastrous global conflict.
  • Discuss and commit to collaborative action on issues of common, and global concern—climate chaos, the pandemic, and reducing military expenditures in order to invest in rebuilding physical and social infrastructure. Again, China should be included. The recently released 2022 Common Security report, based on the model of a similar report in the 1980s that helped end the Cold War, can be a helpful guide on many of these issues.
  • And what of legal accountability for President Putin? This is a tough issue, and there was no accountability for Bush, Cheney and their cabal for the illegal invasion of Iraq. Neither the US nor Russia are parties to the International Criminal Court, so a special tribunal would need to be created. The possible benefit of legal consequences for Putin and his government, as punishment and/or a warning to other would-be invaders, needs to be weighed against the possibility of foregoing an opportunity to tackle the serious problems listed above, while diving headlong into a protracted new Cold, and maybe not so Cold, War with Russia that the people of both countries and the world can’t afford.

It’s a broad agenda, and may seem too ambitious given the dismal state of relations between Washington and Moscow. But let’s put conventional political considerations aside. These are real solutions sorely needed by the people of the United States, Russia, and Ukraine, and a whole world badly in turmoil and on the brink of worse.

shireen abu akleh

Israel’s Killing Of Reporter Shireen Abu Akleh Reminds Me Of Mazen

It’s personal. And the U.S. is not better.

By Roxane Assaf-Lynn

In Jehane Noujaim’s documentary “Control Room,” a daring indictment of embedded media at Central Command (CENTCOM) during the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, military spokesperson Marine Corps Lieutenant Josh Rushing has an epiphany. His moral compass is shaken when he recalls his own reaction to Al Jazeera’s broadcast of “American soldiers strewn about a cold tile floor.”  He found it “absolutely revolting,” and even nauseating.  By contrast, “equally if not more horrifying” images of bloodied civilians in Basra the night before didn’t so much as interrupt his dinner.  I.e., we only care if it’s our own team suffering.

Members of the press are supposed to never become the subject of the news.  Alas, when a journalist is assassinated, it makes headlines.  But who’s reporting it? And how is it framed? Al Jazeera is convinced that the May 11 killing of their seasoned Palestinian American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was the work of the Israeli military. 

remembering shireen abu akleh

I am, too. It’s not a stretch. Working aside other reporters covering Israeli raids of a civilian area, each in a helmet and vest marked “Press,” two of the four were shot – Abu Akleh and fellow Al Jazeera journalist Ali Samoudi. Samoudi was shot in the back and made it to the hospital. Abu Akleh took a bullet to the head and died at the scene.

They were working in a refugee camp north of the Palestinian West Bank town of Jenin that Israel has been bombing with impunity for decades on the grounds that the Palestinians rejecting their brutal foreign military occupation are ‘militants’ or ‘terrorists.’ Their homes can be destroyed by the hundreds, and families can go from refugee to homeless (or dead) without recourse.

In the U.S., reports of the killing seem poised to lay the blame on Israel, even if not stating it outright – with the exception of The New York Times (NYT) where it’s business as usual, covering for Israel at all costs. Predictably, NYT coverage dances around the subject of a forensic investigation of Abu Akleh’s death, announcing “Palestinian Journalist, Dies, Aged 51,” as though from natural causes. The appearance of balance is an exercise in false equivalence.

NYT headline

However, CNN and others in the mainstream corporate media have evolved to the point where the occasional Palestine-sympathetic expression gets through right at the top of the story. For two and a half decades, she chronicled the suffering of Palestinians under Israeli occupation for tens of millions of Arab viewers. This is particularly heartening, given CNN’s reputation for circulating internal memos expressly forbidding the use of the term “occupation” in the context of Israel’s relationship to Palestine.

Even a Google search assigns the cause of death to Israel.

google search for shireen abu akleh

But in 2003, CNN was shy about repeating what had already been established in the case of Mazen Dana, a Reuters cameraman/journalist who had gotten rare permission from Israeli authorities to leave the Occupied Palestinian West Bank for an assignment in Iraq and ended up dead. A U.S. machine gun operator had admittedly taken aim at Dana’s torso (below the big letters identifying him as a guy at work for a TV concern). A Reuters cameraman was shot and killed Sunday while filming near the Abu Ghraib prison…” it coyly stated, citing the earlier Reuters release rather than reporting the who-did-what, which was already available.

What’s with the passive voice?  And who else was near the Abu Ghraib prison with guns loaded at that particular moment other than the U.S. military?  It was a tank gunner who claimed to have mistaken Dana’s camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher right after the reporter got the okay from U.S. military personnel to shoot b-roll of the prison.

I learned of Mazen’s death while working from a Capitol Hill newsroom in completion of a master’s degree in journalism. At almost twice the age of my classmates, I was late to the game, but I wanted to get my credential to teach college students to recognize the unapologetically pro-Israel slant of the U.S. media in covering Israel and Palestine. I had reported from Palestine and Israel for a year already, I had become curious about my father’s Palestinian roots, and I had a close relationship with Mazen Dana.

In flipflops and a thin cotton shirt, I had followed Mazen and his big camera into a Bethlehem street during a skirmish between armed Israeli soldiers and boys throwing rocks, ultimately shutting off my handycam and retreating to the sidewalk where the shabab pressed themselves against shuttered storefronts.  Mazen continued toward the armed huddle stepping around the stony debris to get the shot (but not to get shot). Like other notable individuals, he had skin in the game – literally – every day that he defied Israeli attempts to silence his voice and shut down his lens.

caption: Mazen Dana, 2003

But it wasn’t Israeli fire that stopped his flow of fact-telling. It was us. It was the U.S.  Our military killed Mazen.

In their database of felled reporters, the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists lists Mazen’s cause of death as “crossfire.”

caption Roxane Assaf-Lynn and Mazen Dana at the Reuters office in Hebron, Palestine, 1999
caption: Roxane Assaf-Lynn and Mazen Dana at the Reuters office in Hebron, Palestine, 1999

Not surprisingly, the longstanding Haaretz newspaper was characteristically self-critical as a voice of Israel, both back then and now. “Banned by Israel from the West Bank,” the lead paragraph begins, “Palestinian journalists in the Gaza Strip held a symbolic funeral yesterday for Mazen Dana….”

On the topic of Shireen Abu Akleh, Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy sounds off about the tragic anonymity of Palestinian bloodshed when the victim is not a famous journalist.

At a D.C. conference of Military Reporters and Editors in 2003, I happened to be seated next to a Colorado reporter who had been there at the scene of the crime.  She recalled Mazen’s best buddy and inseparable journalism sidekick Nael Shyioukhi screaming through sobs, “Mazen, Mazen! They shot him! Oh, my god!” He had seen Mazen get shot by military before, but not like this. The giant Mazen, with his ever-present giant camera, was a thorn in the side of the Israeli military in the town of Hebron, host to the burial sites of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and thus heavily infiltrated by gun-toting Jewish religious zealots from abroad who constantly antagonize the native population in fulfillment of their biblical mandate to colonize. Capturing their aggressions on video was bloodsport for Mazen and Nael. Like 600,000 others revolting against illegal Israeli control, they had been prisoners of conscience and tortured mercilessly during the first intifada.

Nael Shyioukhi at the Reuters office in Hebron, Palestine, 1999
caption: Nael Shyioukhi at the Reuters office in Hebron, Palestine, 1999

For more than a half-century, witnesses to Israel’s ‘facts on the ground’ were successfully gaslighted and shunned. But in recent decades, it has become more common for broad-spectrum activists, conscience-bound religious pilgrims, politicians seeking office, and even reporters in the mainstream to be heard well on Israel’s abuses. The same can’t be said for U.S. criticism of our folx in uniform.

In a private conversation with Lt. Rushing in Chicago after he left the military to work for Al Jazeera, he revealed to me that the portion of the interview in Noujaim’s documentary in which he appears ethically transformed was actually edited to suggest that the humanity of the ‘other side’ only dawned on him later in the filming. In fact, it was part of the same 40-minute interview in which he expressed righteous convictions on behalf of his employer. Nevertheless, his point is well taken. 

The documentary carries us through the U.S. bombing of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad where dozens of journalists were known to be lodged. It is beyond comprehension that our own military intelligence would permit such a thing after being given the coordinates. Yet even our own best and brightest turn away from the glare of truth. 

National Public Radio’s Anne Garrels was invited to deliver the commencement at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism the year I got my diploma. I sat behind her feeling proud to receive an advanced degree from a school that keeps company with such esteemed denizens of the fourth estate. 

Then she said it. She acknowledged the tragedy over here in Baghdad, but after all, the reporters checking in at the Palestine knew they were in a war zone. My mind froze in disbelief. My stomach soured. She abandoned her own – and all of us on that warm stage with them.

Interestingly, in that same graduation year, it was Medill’s dean who acquired Tom Brokaw for the larger Northwestern University commencement held in the football stadium. In his speech, he called for a world peace that would depend on Israel’s cessation of conflict in Palestine – in so many words. Cheers rang out from various schools across the field.

It’s a new day when it becomes fashionable to criticize Israel’s wrongdoings. But when the U.S. military has targeted the press, nobody blinked.

oil rig

Biden Wants More Drilling In Alaska And The Gulf, Despite Industry Disinterest

Biden calls off oil and gas leases in Alaska and Gulf of Mexico — but not for the climate.

By Julia Kane, Grist

This story was originally published by Grist. You can subscribe to its weekly newsletter here.

The Department of the Interior will not hold sales of oil and gas leases for millions of acres off the coast of Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico, the agency confirmed on Wednesday. That’s good news for the climate, but experts warn that the U.S. is still not doing nearly enough to limit new oil and gas production to keep warming below catastrophic levels.

The department dropped its plan to lease about a million acres in Cook Inlet in Alaska due to a “lack of industry interest,” Interior spokesperson Melissa Schwartz said in an email to the Washington Post. Two more lease sales planned for the Gulf of Mexico will also be canceled, she added, due to a lack of time and legal issues.

oil rig

The federal government’s current offshore development plan expires at the end of June. Once it lapses, the Department of the Interior cannot issue any new offshore leases until a new plan is in place. The federal government is legally required to create a new plan, but the Biden administration hasn’t proposed one yet, meaning lease sales likely won’t resume until 2023 at the earliest.

Before the election, President Biden promised voters: “No more drilling on federal lands, period.” In January 2021, he signed an executive order pausing oil and gas leasing on public lands and offshore waters. But then 13 states with Republican attorneys general sued the administration, and a federal judge in Louisiana blocked the temporary moratorium.

After that ruling, the administration went ahead with an 80-million-acre lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico. But then, complicating matters further, a federal judge in Washington D.C. invalidated the leases, finding that the Department of the Interior had not taken the effects on the climate into account when issuing them.

Last month the Biden administration resumed selling leases for oil and gas drilling on 145,000 acres of public lands, but raised the royalty rate that oil and gas companies must pay the federal government by 50 percent.

Republican politicians and oil industry leaders used the news of the canceled offshore lease sales to pounce on President Biden, accusing him of restricting oil supplies and not doing enough to rein in high gas prices. Congressman Bruce Westerman, a Republican from Arkansas who sits on the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement: “I can’t imagine a more tone-deaf, shortsighted decision that jeopardizes our economic and energy security without doing a single thing to help the environment or the American people.”

But even if the lease sales had gone ahead, the wells would not have produced oil for years, doing little to ease prices today. And it’s not the federal government that’s preventing oil companies from bolstering supply right now. Rather, the industry itself has chosen not to increase production from wells and leases that they already have. After years of relatively low fuel prices and the shock of the pandemic, oil companies are now raking in record profits. ExxonMobil reported profits of $5.5 billion last quarter — twice as much as the company brought in during the same period a year ago. Chevron’s quarterly profits surged to the highest amount in nearly a decade ($6.3 billion), and Shell reported its highest quarterly earnings ever ($9 billion).

While companies have little incentive to increase supply now, they do plan to continue developing new sources of oil and gas in the future. The same day that the Department of the Interior called off the lease sales, The Guardian released a bombshell investigation revealing that major oil and gas companies have plans to develop 195 new projects across the world that would generate the equivalent of about 18 years worth of current global emissions. Twenty-two of the planned projects in the U.S. would contribute more than a fifth of those emissions.

If these projects around the world go ahead — as it appears they will, barring significant action from governments — they will blow up any chance we have of keeping warming below catastrophic levels.

Last year, the International Energy Agency made it clear that nations around the world need to immediately halt new coal, oil, and gas development. While the Department of the Interior’s announcement that it will not lease millions of acres off the coast of Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico is a step in the right direction, it’s clear that the U.S. is not yet on track to substantially reduce emissions.

summer lee and bernie sanders rally

Bernie Sanders Goes After AIPAC For Trying To 'Buy Elections'

“Talk about a corrupt political system,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders. “And that is why Summer and so many of us are going to do everything that we can to put these super PACs out of business.”

By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

During a rally in support of U.S. House candidate Summer Lee on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders called out super PACs bankrolled by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and billionaire donors for spending big to crush progressives in Pennsylvania and elsewhere across the country, efforts that the Vermont senator decried as “pathetic” and corrosive to democracy.

summer lee and bernie sanders rally

“If they are successful, they will carry this into November,” Sanders warned at the event in Pittsburgh, which was held days before the May 17 Democratic primary in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District. “They have billions of dollars at their disposal.”

“We need a strong progressive like Summer in the Congress,” Sanders added. “But honestly it is even more important that we tell these billionaires that we will not allow them to buy elections and control this democracy.”

In recent weeks, the United Democracy Project (UDP)—a super PAC that AIPAC founded late last year—has spent more than $2 million attacking Lee or boosting her primary opponent Steve Irwin, a corporate lawyer and former Republican congressional staffer.

Billionaire Haim Saban, a longtime AIPAC supporter, is UDP’s biggest individual donor.

Democratic Majority for Israel—a super PAC with close ties to AIPAC—has also been spending in support of Irwin fresh off its success in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District, where the group helped defeat progressive champion Nina Turner earlier this month.

“These ads, paid for by AIPAC, are attacking Summer because she’s not a ‘loyal enough Democrat,'” Sanders said Thursday, referring to a recent 30-second spot by UDP highlighting Lee’s past criticism of the Democratic Party. “But what you should know is that this organization is funding over 100 Republican candidates.”

“So here you have a super PAC saying ‘she’s not a loyal Democrat’ while they’re endorsing over 100 Republicans, including many who even refuse to acknowledge that Joe Biden won the election,” the Vermont senator continued. “Talk about hypocrisy. Talk about a corrupt political system. And that is why Summer and so many of us are going to do everything that we can to put these super PACs out of business by overturning Citizens United.”

Lee, too, slammed the special interests that are pouring money into Pennsylvania’s 12th District in an attempt to undermine her campaign, which includes a platform of Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and tuition-free public colleges and universities.

“When people attack you or when they come for you, you must be doing something right,” Lee, a current member of the Pennsylvania State House, said in a fiery speech to the crowd of supporters gathered in Pittsburgh Thursday night. “But I want to be clear in this moment: It’s not me they’re attacking… They’re worried about you. If they were in this room right now, they would not be able to stare us in the eyes.”

“If you are somebody in this country who cares about people, why would you want to stand in the way of healthcare for everybody?” Lee continued. “If you care about this country and you care about our party the way they say, why would they stand in the way of clean air and water? How dare they get in the way of us fighting for every worker to have a living wage and a union and paid sick and family leave.”

Womens March in Washington demanding continued access to abortion after the ban on most abortions in Texas and looming threat to Roe v Wade in upcoming Supreme Court

The Devastating Economic Impacts Of An Abortion Ban

The overturning of Roe v. Wade would seriously hinder women’s education, employment, and earning prospects.

By Sheelah Kolhatkar, The New Yorker

Last December, oral arguments were held before the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case leading to the leaked draft opinion last week that, if finalized, would overturn Roe v. Wade. During one especially illuminating moment, Chief Justice John Roberts attempted to draw Julie Rikelman—the litigation director of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who was arguing to have a ban on abortions after fifteen weeks in the state of Mississippi overturned—into a back-and-forth about the significance of the cutoff for having access to an abortion. Rikelman made a broader argument, that narrowing women’s access to the procedure could disproportionately harm low-income women or those experiencing personal crises. She turned to numbers to bolster her argument. “In fact,” Rikelman said, “the data has been very clear over the last fifty years that abortion has been critical to women’s equal participation in society. It’s been critical to their health, to their lives, their ability to pursue—”

Womens March in Washington demanding continued access to abortion after the ban on most abortions in Texas and looming threat to Roe v Wade in upcoming Supreme Court

“I’m sorry, what—what kind of data is that?” Roberts interrupted.

When Rikelman tried to answer, Roberts interrupted again. “Well, putting that data aside,” he said, “why would fifteen weeks be an inappropriate line?”

Listening to the exchange, Caitlin Myers, an economics professor at Middlebury College who studies gender, race, and the effects of reproductive-health policies on people’s lives, was stunned. Why would a Supreme Court Justice, in considering such a crucial issue, not be interested in knowing “the data”? Roberts’s colleagues signalled a similar disregard in the draft opinion for the Dobbs case that was published by Politico: the Justices behind the opinion seemed not to care about the issue. Where the original Roe decision acknowledged that making people carry and raise unwanted children could “force upon” women “a distressful life and future,” the draft opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, barely mentioned the substantial ways that the loss of access to safe, legal abortion would hamper the ability of women to participate fully in society.

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orientation to organizing slide hosted by india walton

India Walton Hosts First In Series Of Organizing Workshops

Watch the Organizing Workshop below, hosted by India Walton.

Watch On Youtube

border wall construction

Under Biden, The Border Wall Is More Powerful Than Ever

Officials continue to promote a border-wall system that’s increasingly profitable—and more than ever like something out of a science-fiction movie.

By Todd Miller, TomDispatch

First, it was the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) vehicles speeding along on the road in front of our campsite. Then it was the Border Patrol’s all-terrain vehicles moving swiftly on a ridge above us. I was about 10 miles north of the border with Mexico, near Peña Blanca Lake in southern Arizona, camping with my six-year-old son and some other families. Like fire trucks racing to a blaze, the Border Patrol mobilization around me was growing so large I could only imagine an emergency situation developing.

border wall construction

I started climbing to get a better look and soon found myself alone on a golden hill dotted with alligator junipers and mesquite. Brilliant vermilion flycatchers fluttered between the branches. The road, though, was Border Patrol all the way. Atop the hill opposite mine stood a surveillance tower. Since it loomed over our campsite, I’d been looking at it all weekend. It felt strangely like part of French philosopher Michel Foucault’s panopticon — in other words, I wasn’t sure whether I was being watched or not.  But I suspected I was.

After all, that tower’s cameras could see for seven miles at night and its ground-sweeping radar operated in a 13-mile radius, a capability, one Border Patrol officer told me in 2019, worth “100 agents.” In the term of the trade, the technology was a “force multiplier.” I had first seen that tower freshly built in 2015 after CBP awarded a hefty contract to the Israeli company Elbit Systems. In other words, on top of that hill, I wasn’t just watching some unknown event developing; I was also in the middle of the border-industrial complex.

During Donald Trump’s years in office, the media focused largely on the former president’s fixation with the giant border wall he was trying to have built, a xenophobic symbol so filled with racism that it was far easier to find people offended by it than towers like this one. From where I stood, the closest stretch of border wall was 10 miles to the south in Nogales, a structure made of 20-foot-high steel bollards and covered with coiled razor wire. (That stretch of wall, in fact, had been built long before Trump took office.)

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