From Coal to Wind Power: creating a sustainable Appalachian economy

This post is intended to continue to bring to light the problems with current energy production and consumption, and show what one little corner of the world here in western North Carolina is doing to pitch in on a GLOBAL problem of fossil fuel production and consumption.

In Appalachia, we begin by trading nightmarish mountaintop removal coal-mining, for an afternoon breeze...

(Cross-posted at the Appalachian Voices blog)

As America awakes to the effects that our energy production and consumption is having on the globe, people are shocked to find out that we do things like blow up 100s of 1000s of acres in our own mountains for a just little bit of coal. One of the most agreed upon tenets among those of us working for sustainable energy policy is that "there is no silver bullet" as far as alternative energy. Another words, it isn't feasible to run everything in the United States off just solar, just wind, or just hydro power. I adhere to this belief. America will need to localize our energy solutions in order to create the sustainable, clean, stable, domestic energy policy that everyone wants and needs.

100 Counties Launch

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Okay, so there was little real interest in the 100C idea at the "official" level. Which, let's face it, is not surprising. It's time for us to figure out what we can and cannot do here at BlueNC or through whatever "alternate" ego we establish.

I'd like to make something perfectly clear here. I like collaboration. I dig collaboration. And, I know that leadership in collaboration means not always being in charge, not always getting your way, and not getting credit. I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH THAT. If I could find a job doing just that, I would. Finding collaborative grants, convincing everyone to participate, spearheading their writing, getting funded, then moving on to another one. I love this stuff. So, I'm going to kick things off here with the full understanding that this will grow into whatever y'all want it to be. I'll play whatever role I can and no more. With that, some random thoughts below the break.

Jennifer Roberts for U.S. Congress

First of all, I'm new here. Hi. Good to see you. Now, let's get to business.

I read a story in the Observer the other day about Jennifer Roberts. Here's the story. For those of you who live outside of Mecklenburg County, she's the newly-elected Democratic chair of the Mecklenburg County Commissioners. Almost completely unknown outside of her district, Roberts ran for an at-large seat this fall and shocked everyone by receiving the most votes. More than Meck Co. Democratic fixture Parks Helms.

Inside the Beltline

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In the wake of the November 7 election, attention has already turned to 2008. Specifically, many folks are wondering how the races for Governor and US Senate will most likely shape up. Jerry Meek, who leads the NC Democratic Party, even came by BlueNC to ask for ideas on whom he should recruit to take Elizabeth Dole's seat. His entry received more than 150 comments, an all-time high for a BlueNC post.

Over the Thanksgiving break I had the chance to talk with four people who work inside the beltline in Raleigh. These people personally know each of the individuals being discussed for various seats - and they are almost unanimous in their conclusions. Here's what they told me:

Free Market Fundamentalism

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I was raised in a hard-core Baptist family. We went to church five times a week, and with each close encounter, I sank deeper and deeper in the shame of simply being human. I also developed a keen nose for "fundamentalism" in all its odious forms. So when I found this article by Fred Block, of the Longview Institute, I wasn't surprised to see the parallels he drew between religious fundamentalism and the Gospel of the Free Markets, as preached by the John Locke Foundation.

Market Fundamentalism is a quasi-religious faith that unregulated markets will somehow always produce the best possible results. It rests on the idea that markets are natural and government regulations are artificial. Similar to other fundamentalisms, it paints the world only in black and white. Taxes, by definition are bad, so another round of tax cuts is always desirable since individuals, argue the fundamentalists, are sure to use the money more wisely than governments. A parallel logic lies behind the enthusiasm for replacing government workers with private contractors — even for such delicate tasks as interrogating prisoners — since market employment, they say, provides incentives for efficiency that government employment always lacks.

Howard Coble Goes Ballistic

For all intents and purposes, the issue of gun control in America is dead. As I've said on several occasions, this is a battle that progressives fought long and hard - and lost. So be it. But that still doesn't excuse the lunacy of a bill recently sponsored by Howard Coble (NC-6) that would hog-tie ATF investigators as they attempt to weed out unscrupulous gun dealers. The Greensboro paper has the story.

Opponents view the bill — the ATF Modernization and Reform Act — as a Trojan horse that looks good on the surface by enabling federal inspectors to issue fines up to $15,000 and suspensions up to 90 days. But its inner details set a standard of proof so high that the ATF would lose its most powerful tool in fighting corrupt or dangerously careless dealers, said Daniel Vice of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington.

Then, you step out in front of a bus...

Let's say you're self-employed, maybe running a small company like many of my friends. Maybe running a web-design company, or a you are a free-lance writer, or whatever. Things are going well, you're thinking of maybe expanding, maybe taking "that" vacation with your spouse, maybe being able to send the kids to college. Then, this happens.

Hundreds of actors, artists, musicians and writers in California are facing massive increases in their health insurance premiums, a situation that could face other consumers who don't have employer-sponsored health plans, advocates and lawmakers said.

Cigna Corp., which has sold insurance to members of the entertainment industry through their professional associations for 25 years, is raising premiums for actors and others by an average of 82%, with some hikes as high as 254%.

Under the Cigna increases, premiums on its point-of-service plan will rise to $1,022 a month for single members in the Los Angeles area beginning Jan. 1. Family point-of-service coverage would jump to $2,485 a month.

Archive 6-4-04: Crazies agree - Vote Bush!

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Fred vs Bill

If you've driven recently on US 70 from Raleigh to Kinston, you faced the extremely unpleasant burden of seeing gigantic billboards plastered with the grinning mug of NC Senator Fred Smith, a proud "conservative" who makes a living slopping at the public trough for highway contracts.

And of course you won't be surprised to see on his website that one of his big issues is ... you guessed it ... building more highways! If only the mean old liberal Democrats would get out of the way and let his company pave over the rest of the durn state, all would be well and good. (You really have to read where Fredly whines about "liberal Democrats" three times in two short paragraphs. It's a hoot.)

But the very latest addition to the senator's over-engineered site is a high-flying slam at the vaunted profession of his most likely gubernatorial opponent, Mr. Bill Graham, the ambulance-chasing government-hater from Salisbury.

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