Month: April 2010

Texas Can Lead the World in Clean Energy and Policy – Come and Take It!

You’ve got to hand it to Rick Perry – this guy knows how to stay in the spotlight and keep his name in the papers. Gov. Perry has that unique ability to tap into the next big wave – that elusive undercurrent of public sentiment – that keeps him front and center in the public’s mind. “The Gov” is currently cashing in on the anti-Washington and anti-establishment wave. The cover of Newsweek says it all: “Don’t Mess With Texas.” Us Texans are a proud people. We have a rich heritage and history rooted in the frontier, survival during tough times and suspicion of government. But is this go-it-alone attitude really the best way forward for our state? What role should our state take in a quickly changing world? More specifically, how should Texas think about energy and climate change legislation? Is the governor right? Are overarching government policies and regulations going to strangle our state? I don’t think the answer is clear-cut. In some instances, I think Rick Perry can make a reasonable argument that a one-size-fits-all climate bill will be inefficient in some regards. There are many industry- and regionally-specific details that will need to be hammered out. For example, promoting electric vehicles as a way to reduce carbon emissions may be a great idea in Washington state where there is abundant hydroelectricity, but a poor policy in...

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A Pakistani Perspective on the War on Terror

March 12, 2010 was the perfect day to start Spring Break. It was a rare spring day that had the power to lift your spirits. But it only took 45 minutes to change that. March 12, 2010 is the same day that five blasts shook the city of Lahore, Pakistan. That day didn’t seem so amazing anymore as I frantically tried to contact everyone I know back home to make sure they were alive. It was only when I was assured of their safety that I was hit by the larger implications of what had happened. The terrorist dragon had been awakened and will only sleep when it is tired. The terrorists are just warming up and the only thing that will satisfy this beast is to be left alone. Unfortunately, at this point, they cannot be left to their own devices. External forces that the dragon calls its enemy continue to poke and attack this uncontainable creature. This attackonly angers the dragon further, and stronger forces are needed to contain the extensive damage it wreaks. Thus, the vicious cycle continues. Sadly, a third party is getting destroyed, becoming collateral damage in a war between good and evil. Is it justifiable to let one country burn so the fire can be put out in another? Including the terrorist strikes in the northern areas of Pakistan, the number of attacks...

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Gay or Straight: Respect Military Families

To those who have a heart for military service, those who can handle the ever-changing, ever-demanding lifestyle, and those who can embrace the risks and rewards of today’s U.S. military, we should award respect. In the spirit of this honor and respect, full and equal military benefits should be extended to families of homosexual servicemen and women. Military families need to stand up for the rights of family members and spouses of homosexual U.S. service members that will soon “join the ranks” with President Obama’s repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” “Don’t ask don’t tell” is a military policy restricting the U.S. military from discovering bi- and homosexual service members and barring entry to new applicants since 1993. Calling for its repeal was a terrific first step for the Obama administration, but faulty policy implementation of the repeal of DADT could leave homosexual servicemen and women and their families seriously damaged, alienated and penalized. This responsibility of implementing the repeal of DADT rests with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who should heed this message from military families such as mine. Understand the Grand Bargain Spouses and dependants of military servicemen and women receive untold privileges, perks and pay. The theory goes that these benefits are provided in exchange for a lifestyle that can change capriciously, bring unrequested assignments, impose prolonged family separation and even cause the death of a beloved...

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Capture That Carbon and Put It Back from Whence It Came!

Carbon capture and sequestration technology is absolutely necessary to stave off the worst effects of climate change because it’s the only way to use fossil fuels for power generation without emitting colossal quantities of carbon dioxide into the air.  Moreover, CCS technology is ready for large-scale demonstration today; implementing government incentives for CCS will help commercialize the technology and allow us to realize the immense environmental benefits by putting carbon back from whence it came. CCS describes any process used to separate carbon from a fossil fuel and permanently store or sequester it, usually as CO2. You can remove CO2 before burning the fuel (pre-combustion), after burning it (post-combustion) or by burning fuel with pure oxygen (oxy-combustion).  Most CCS systems would then store CO2 in deep underground geological formations.  Burning fossil fuels takes carbon from the ground and puts it in the air; CCS puts the carbon back where it came from. CCS works for any fossil fuel, but rapid deployment is critical for dealing with the large volumes of CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants.  Half of U.S. electricity comes from coal and rapidly developing countries like China are building one new coal-fired power plant per week, making quitting coal turkey unlikely. Even if the world stopped building coal-fired power plants today, current plants will stay online for decades. CCS is the key to utilizing coal while still...

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Thirsty Texas

Mark Twain allegedly once said, “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.” While Mark Twain was a Missourian, his words also ring true for Texans. And boy, do we fight over water. Water makes frequent appearances in Texas Supreme Court trials about rights to pump groundwater and flooding due to construction and the operation of water reservoirs. Fighting over water reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 when Texas and New Mexico could not agree on flow in the Pecos River. And just this past February the City of Dallas went to court over its plans to construct a new reservoir in the same area of a planned wildlife refuge. Why all this fighting over water? We need water. We are water – well, about 60 percent of the human body is water anyway. And with more bodies than ever before (that is, population), we’re bound to need more water if we don’t start conserving. Water might be for fighting over, but maybe it’s time to start fighting for more efficient water use. Texas Water Rights Water rights in Texas are confusing to those of us who do not live and breathe water allocation law. First, Texas water rights are allocated based on the type of resource (surface water versus groundwater). Surface water resources are the property of the state of Texas, requiring a permit to withdraw...

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