November 15, 2011 § 1 Comment
We live in an America that primarily runs on dirty fuel. We find ourselves floundering in an economy reliant on the acquisition of expensive commodities. We drive our gas guzzling SUV’s and commute extensive distances, without even considering the energy needed to make that single trip. Often, we overlook the cost of the very resources we rely most heavily; most of which are non-renewable. The time to reconsider the future of American ethics and energy is HERE & NOW.
An Oily History
On February 9th, 2005, a corporation known as TransCanada proposed a plan to construct a 1700 mile underground oil pipeline. This pipeline would cross 6 states (Kansas, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas), several major rivers and a critical Aquifer. It would allow U.S. BIG oil to purchase and pump low grade crude oil from Alberta (tar sands), Canada to Texas refineries along the Gulf Coast. Russ Girling, President and CEO of TransCanada, claims construction of the pipeline will alleviate some of America’s interactions with unfriendly oil controllers in the Middle East. These claims are unlikely since the oil produced from “strip-mining” is of such low quality. The 500,000 barrels a day of cheap oil will most likely be resold to oversees markets, making strained relationships with the Middle East still necessary.
The Bigger (Oil) Picture
The Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) is the primary trading floor upon which all oil transactions are traded. ICE is owned by big oil companies and big banks and is not at all regulated by the U.S. government. In April 2010, ICE acquired control over Climate Exchange (CLE) which operates the European CLimate Exchange (ECX) and the Climate Futures Exchange (CCFE). That same year the Chicago CLimate Exchange (CCX) crashed. It was the only voluntary, legally binding greenhouse gas trading and carbon “offset” project in North America and Brazil. In short, American oil companies and big banks will answer to no one regarding their ecological decisions. To top it all off, the world’s six largest publicly traded oil companies reported a combined $38.1 billion in first-quarter profits. That’s a pretty huge profit for such a craptastic economy?!
The projected cost of the Keystone XL Canada to Gulf extension was $7 Billion. The project is said to add $20 Billion to U.S. economy. However, by the year 2020, oil-sands operators and their partners will have invested more than $100 Billion making this pipe dream come true. The construction and manufacturing of the pipeline was projected to create 20,000 permanent U.S. jobs – permanent because America’s reliance on fossil fuels will increase due to this new “reliable” and “affordable” energy source. Don’t get too excited! The gasoline prices are not expected to see much relief; resting right around $3.90-4.10/Gal.
Further Reading: Tyranny of Oil BY Antonia Juhasz
Don’t Drink the Water
One of the most frightening concerns regarding the pipeline was the initial decision to navigate it directly through a portion of Nebraska where lies the Ogallala Aquifer. This source of water provides drinking and agricultural water to over 2 Million people across 8 states. The Sierra Club reported the pipeline would “ONLY leak once every seven to eleven years.” But they neglected to include the pipeline’s pumping stations, which have already sustained 11 reported spills in their first year of operation.” The question was not IF the drinking and irrigation water-table would be contaminated but WHEN.
TransCanada, as of today, will be forced to re-direct their route around the Sandhills area of Nebraska (where the aquifer lies). President Obama delayed the decision of a permit to go forward, given all other areas of re-routing had been discussed. The new route has not been established as of yet, but it is said to require 30-40 additional miles of pipeline and one more pumping station. State department officials say the final decision and alternative route could take another 12-18months to determine. A decision is said to be made following the next Presidential election. Truth be told, if U.S. does not exploit Canada’s Tar Sands, Asian markets will.
An Ethical Decision
This conversation (however lengthy it has been) is about more than just oil and BIG banks. It’s about preserving the core values that are nestled inside that great package we call “The American Dream”. It’s about teaching our children the important things in life; the value of a dollar, the importance of good work ethic and the general sense between Right and Wrong. The future of this country (much like the past) will be grounded in the morals and standards that we set forth today. Our strategy as a people should not be to build, drill, & take all in our power. Instead, we need to become a culture that empowers youthful innovative leaders to be responsible, teaches respect for people, and sustains on renewable resources. It’s time to build a new American Dream!
“A long habit of not thinking
a thing is wrong
gives it a superficial appearrance
of being right.”
August 19, 2011 § 1 Comment
Wal-Mart, Wally-World, Mal-Mart, the Evil Force driving out small business. . . Whatever you choose to call it, it’s still a shopping center that evokes a mixed bag of emotions including skepticism. Ridiculously low wages, sexual discrimination and disturbing work conditions make it difficult to swallow the idea of an Eco-friendly Walmart. That being said, it appears that this Darth Vader of grocery super-centers is making a concerted effort to clean up their act. Keep reading. Even if you disagree, I’ve included lots of informative links!
On July1st of 2008 Wal-Mart announced its commitment “to source more local fruits and vegetables to keep produce prices down and provide affordable selections that are fresh and healthful”. This translates to cheaper produce for the average shopper, healthier food options and fatter pockets for local farmers. The perfect strategy to bring this plan to fruition was to collaborate with local resources. A silent program known as Heritage Agriculture would soon be created. The program would bring together the Wal-Mart Headquarters (in Arkansas) with the University of Arkansas’ Applied Sustainability Center (the Wal-Mart Foundation happens to be a chief financial supporter). Consequently, the Applied Sustainability Center is part of a national partnership called Agile Agriculture. All partners that make up Agile Agriculture work to produce sustainable benefits for producers, distributors and consumers alike.
- Increased profitability from new marketing opportunities
- Transitioning to large-scale marketing may allow producers to focus on operational efficiency
FOR FOOD DISTRIBUTORS AND RETAILERS
- Meet consumer desire for local and regional products
- Reduce transportation costs and GHG emissions
- Provide fresher products to customers, potentially reducing waste
- Potential to develop local economies and create business opportunities
- Consumers know that buying local is beneficial to local economies
- Forming connections with agricultural supply chains increases confidence
- Increased availability of healthy, fresh, affordable products
Wal-Mart vs. Whole Foods
Although these plans began in 2008, it was not until last month that I noticed the single crate of “locally grown” zucchini in the neighborhood Wal-Mart. Two weeks later there were cucumbers next to the zucchini! It seems that Wal-Mart managed to roll out the red carpet at the perfect time. The strategy appears to be in competing with Whole Foods stores whose focus is natural and organic groceries. As Organic sales and oil prices increased, locally (and often organically) grown produce would decrease the length of distance traveled from plant to plate, therefore decreasing cost to seller (in this case Wal-Mart). Some Wal-Mart stores are even offering locally sourced milk. The Heritage Agriculture program would be capable of benefiting more small and medium American farms than the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food campaign.
Read the full article entitled The Great Grocery Smackdown for more detailed Mal-mart info.
Benefits of the Heritage Agriculture Program
- Introduction of hybrid 18-wheelers that use less fuel when transporting goods
- Increased reliance on renewable energy sources
- Reduction of packaging waste among suppliers will cause a “Green Labeling” ripple effect
- New environmental standards for its suppliers in China
- Increased collaboration with environmental advocacy groups
- Recycling of Wal-Mart’s used plastic bottles into dog beds sold at its stores
- Reduce the distance that food must travel to increase freshness and nutritional value
U.S. Wal-Mart stores plan to increase the percentage of locally grown produce to a whopping 9%. Canadian Wal-Mart stores are much more ambitious; expecting to buy 30 percent of its produce locally by the end of 2013, and increase that to 100 percent when local produce is available.
I have difficulty acknowledging that Wal-Mart may be capable of providing some relief to the currently struggling U.S. economy, but I would also like to think that any move toward sustainable living is a positive move in the right direction.
Check out the links page at the Applied Sustainability Center. They are chock full of useful info pertaining to green, sustainable and responsible living.
Now, if only I lived closer to locally grown avocados!