Christian Fundamentalist Extremism: Effects on The Business Environment

    Social institutions are a valuable field of study for the aspiring multi-national manager.    Thanks to the increasing complexity of U.S. culture, an understanding of them is also useful for domestic managers.    “A social institution can be defined as “a complex of positions, roles, norms, and values lodged in particular types of social structures and organizing relatively stable patterns of human resources with respect to fundamental problems in…sustaining viable societal structures within a given environment. “1    The three kinds of social institutions that are considered to have the greatest impact on business environments are the kind of economy that drives the political system (e.g., socialism or capitalism), the level, or progress, of the society along the lines of industrialization or modernization, and the type, or types, of religion that are predominate in the culture.    Social institutions have cultural impacts that affect people individually, and collectively, and that also affect organizations that operate within that culture.    Andrea Picou describes these affects using a framework of three basic dimensions.   They are the regulative, cognitive, and normative dimensions.    This paper will focus on the effects of the religious social institution broadly known as Christianity on these three dimensions of the U.S. culture, along with their effects on the U.S. business environment.

     The regulative dimension is the dimension of the cultural effect of the social institution on regulations that affect individuals and businesses.    Christianity has a cultural effect on regulations in the U.S. that affect both.    Laws in the U.S. regarding violent crimes, and theft, generally conform to cultural norms that are supported by Christian ethics.    Laws that affect civil institutions among parties, particularly those affecting marriages and families are more heavily influenced by Christian beliefs grounded in modern interpretations of New Testament teachings.    New laws and regulations are regularly proposed that are ideologically consistent with fundamentalist interpretations of Christianity.   There has been a recent increase in the successful passage of some of these laws, but others have been successfully fought by other parts of the U.S. culture.    Tension has been high with regard to the Christian effect on regulations of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, divorce, the death penalty and other issues that affect individuals, communities, and the business environment.     Business organizations that make strong efforts to diversify their labor pools may find additional human resource challenges presented when operating in environments where Christian fundamentalism is pervasive.

        The cognitive dimension is the dimension of the cultural effect of the social institution on individual learning, also known as cognition, but more generally on the overall educational or learning environment fostered by the culture.    Christianity has cultural effects on the content that individuals learn, on how they learn (cognition), and on the overall learning environment.    This impact of religion on the individual is also relevant to business managers, marketers, and business strategists.    Because religion is based on belief in the supernatural, and not on fact or observation, the beliefs of religions expand beyond or contradict those beliefs that could reasonably be obtained from study, or science.     The willingness to accept beliefs that are not based in fact is an example of the impact that religion has on the cognition of adherents.     Religious extremism, where all facts that contradict the religious beliefs or the teachings of a religious leader, are disregarded should be highly suspect in its affect on the cognitive ability of the labor pool.

      The earlier, and longer, an individual is immersed in a culture of religious extremism, the greater the expectation could be that their ability to engage in fact-based reasoning, and judgment based upon observation, could be impaired.     It would also be reasonable to expect a greater tendency toward belief in rumor, conspiracy, disinformation or other non-fact-based sources of knowledge, as opposed to logic or fact-based arguments.     These could be detrimental to human resource recruitment, and subsequent training efforts.     Additional testing may also be necessary for skilled labor and degreed candidates whose educations were derived from non-accredited institutions.    Demographic information on educational achievement could be weighed against the outcomes of standardized tests, and graduation rates from accredited programs, in evaluating the potential impact on new plant locations.    Cost projections for additional training programs should also be evaluated.

     The consumer-behavior of religious extremist groups may differ from others in their preference for carefully censored educational materials or outright refusal to purchase specific books, or take certain classes or seminars.     Some may flatly refuse to learn any science or history that contradicts their beliefs.     This affects organizations directly through individual consumer preferences.   In a specific example of the potential benefit of this type of behavior to a specific organization, the Christian educational products publisher, A Beka, has seen steady growth in the popularity of its materials designed for the “Christian education” of elementary through high school students.    In a specific example of the potential harm of this type of behavior, regionally-accredited community colleges, as well as public and private four-year universities, must compete with a number of religious institutions that present themselves as colleges and universities, but that may not meet the same accreditation standards.     U.S. Census Bureau data that relies upon the individual to report the education level that household members have achieved does not appear to take the quality of that education into consideration.

     The normative dimension is the dimension of the cultural effect of the social institution in prescribing specific cultural norms, or normal, behavior.     Christianity in its broad sense reverberates throughout U.S. society in prescribing cultural norms, and what is considered normal behavior.     Cultural norms, like attendance at worship services, make it a normal sight to see a procession of cars to, and from, churches on a Sunday morning.     Similarly, it is not abnormal to see symbols of Christianity, like crosses and fish, adorning everyday objects, automobiles or represented as jewelry.     These are norms.     In addition, there are more general norms that are considered conducive to the function of civilized society and business.   The individual in a society dominated by this type of religion would be expected to find it normal to be motivated work for money, to not steal, to not vandalize, and to behave ethically with peers and customers.

     Individuals within a culture dominated by Christianity in the U.S. may find their behavior prescribed in great detail, with the more fundamentalist sects ascribing increasingly to approval of marriage solely between one man and one woman, and frowning on behaviors outside the cultural norms.   Those behaviors considered outside the norm may include non-“nuclear” family lifestyles, homosexuality, interracial marriage, divorce, failure to attend church, use of birth control and more, depending upon the denomination or “sect” of Christianity predominate in the area.    In “family-oriented” sub-cultures, the roles of women and men in marriage, work and household may be more clearly defined, and women may not be readily accepted in leadership or political roles.    Such definitions and expectations of gender-based roles are factors in environments that contribute to domestic violence.2

     Individual consumers are directly affected by cultural pressures to purchase gifts at Christmastime, and to take time off of work to be with family and attend worship services on Sundays and major holidays.   This affects organizations that manufacture or sell retail goods, and affects others through availability of a labor pool on religious days.      Christian commitments to tithing, networking within their faith, and to charitable giving also impact the business environment, presenting businesses with both obstacles and opportunities.

     As domestic violence increases in environments where gender roles are clearly defined by cultural norms, increases in Christian fundamentalism will impact emergency service medical facilities and providers, law enforcement-related industries, and those that provide psycho-social services to victims by increasing consumer activity; while those that cater to intact, functional consumer behavior might be adversely impacted.     Loss of work-time due to injuries sustained by the 25% of the female population currently victimized by domestic violence in the U.S. impacts the labor availability in these cultures, as well as the reliability of that labor, and demand for additional sick days or medical leave.   Due to the tendency for domestic violence to be self-perpetuating in these environments some insurance carriers already view it as a pre-existing condition and may deny coverage for future injuries.     This can also negatively impact businesses by way of increased insurance costs and lost work time of trained employees.

    The perception that the “group” of Christian extremists, and what they perceive to be Christian norms, extends beyond the actual denomination, sect or even the broader group of Christians in general to encompass the entire society creates a volatile environment where members of the culture may attempt to impose cultural norms on others in the general social environment.     This is a current problem being faced in the U.S.    Even the perception of this situation could negatively impact foreign, state, and local investment.   Recent controversies over the community center near the site of the 9/11 disaster, the recent controversy surrounding a proposed Koran-burning in Florida, increased incidents of hate speech and hate crime associated with Christianity, and political candidates espousing extremist views are examples.

     Christianity is a religious social institution that impacts the societal environment of individuals and businesses.    The general impact of Christianity, in its broadest sense, on the culture is one that supports a sound work ethic conducive to business.   Fundamentalist Christian Extremism has more negative potential consequences for individuals and businesses, therefore additional attention should be paid to the composition of the demographic in any proposed plant location.

       The overall impact on cognition is negative, as is the impact on education, and the literacy of the resulting workforce, however the overall impact is supportive of ethical behaviors, themselves products of a form of cognition.     The most deleterious impacts on cognition would be expected from those of fundamentalist isolation, and exclusionary educational approaches, which would be harmful to the quality of education and labor literacy.

        The overall impact on the normative dimension would be positive in that the culture is generally supportive of work, wealth accumulation, and a structured society.     The hazards to the normative dimension are presented by a nationalistic approach to the religion, and subsequent imposition of fundamentalist extremist religious norms across a broad range of the population, resulting in oppression and bigotry.    

       The overall impact on the regulatory dimension is supportive of ethical laws, and regulations, however the imposition of religion through law, as is currently proposed in areas where extremism is widespread, is a potential hazard to the individual and business environment.   

        The overall effect of Christianity on the social environment for individuals and businesses appears to be positive when retained in a context that is separate from, and does not interfere with, education, state or federal regulatory bodies, and which is not confused with nationalism.     The prevalence of fundamentalist Christianity in its extreme form in the vicinity of a proposed plant should be considered in projecting costs related to human resource recruitment, evaluation, training, and retention.     In areas where domestic violence rates are high, additional resources for preventive mental health care should be considered, and the costs included in the planned budget.     Diversity training to overcome bigotry would also be a reasonable consideration.

Works Cited

1Turner, J. H. 1997, The Institutional Order, New York; Addison-Wesley p. 6
2UNICEF, “Innocenti Digest No . 6 – J u n e 2 0 0 0 Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls.” Unicef Innocenti Research Centre. United Nations Children’s Fund, n.d. Web. 12 Sep 2010.

Additional Resources

Schedler, Kuno, and Isabella Proeller. “PUBLIC MANAGEMENT AS A CULTURAL PHENOMENON. REVITALIZING SOCIETAL CULTURE IN INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC MANAGEMENT RESEARCH.” International Public Management Review 8.1 (2007): Web. 12 Sep 2010.

Recommended Reading

Thompson, Lindsay J.,June 22 2004. Moral Leadership in a Post-Modern World. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies

Victoria John (Ritterbush)
From “Chapter 3 Discussion Post, Multinational Management, Mang228, Fall 2010” Delgado Community College, Instructor Andrea Picou

Note: This was a quick essay that could be developed further with more citations and links to current, and specific events. This was not required for this assignment.


Their Domestic Violence Is Your Political Wakeup Call

     Yesterday a man became disgruntled when his wife failed to serve his eggs the way that
he liked them.  This wouldn’t have been newsworthy if he hadn’t shot and killed her, four other people, and himself in his resulting rage. story here  The sheer shock-value was enough to propel the story coast-to-coast in hours.  People are killed daily in the U.S., but seldom over cold eggs.  The media has learned that the U.S. audience requires an ever-increasing daily dose of the bizarre. The idea that someone could become so enraged over how his eggs were prepared that he would turn a shotgun on family, neighbors and himself must be bizarre enough, if only because domestic violence is so seldom covered by the press.   The story raises questions about our society, and the role and responsibility that our social institutions have in creating an environment that fosters or discourages violence.

      This was not an isolated incident of derangement, but the fruit of a larger problem.  West’s Encyclopedia of Law defines domestic violence as “Violence toward or physical abuse of one’s spouse or domestic partner.” According to the Silent Witness National Initiative, “Thirty-four percent of the women homicide victims over age 15 are killed by their husbands, ex-husbands or boyfriends.”  That hardly makes this an isolated instance as murders go.

     While domestic violence doesn’t always result in death, it is so common that “1 in 5 women, and 1 in 14.29 men will report being victims of domestic violence.”according to a report prepared for the World Health Organization.  Those numbers aren’t just survey results.  They are low compared to the estimate that nearly 25% of women will be raped or abused by their spouses in their lifetime, the horrific reality that “approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States”, and the awful truth that “Of females killed with a firearm, almost two-thirds were killed by their intimate partners”. statistics  Domestic violence is such a widespread problem you would expect it to be a more prominent issue in politics, but it isn’t, and that is a problem in itself.

      Cultural norms contribute to domestic violence.  The roles of women as domestic servants, cooks and caretakers seem antiquated in modern U.S. culture, until instances like this arise to remind us that the reason they are less common today is because they can be harmful, dangerous, or even deadly.  In Causes of Domestic Violence, on page 8 of the Innocenti Project, The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), describes factors that contribute to domestic violence and perpetuate it.  Among these are “Cultural definitions of appropriate sex roles”, “Expectations of roles within relationships.”, “Belief in the inherent superiority of males.”, and the “Notion of the family as the private sphere and under male control.”  While many wives may choose to cook for their husbands, the more disturbing idea is that some perceived lack in that service could set this man, or others, into a violent, killing, rage.

      The UNICEF report goes on to describe the role that political trends play in fostering social environments that contribute to domestic violence.  Among these are “Under-representation of women in power, politics, the media and in the legal and medical professions.”  Speaking to this very issue, The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce met in February of this year to address the role of women in politics, particularly the less than flattering ranking of Kentucky as “45th in the nation for women in elected office overall, and 45th for the number of women in the state legislature.” read more The political environment in Kentucky is so toxic to women that a search at non-partisan yielded no information on the political views or platforms of either major 2010 Senate candidate with regard to women’s issues, and with less than two months remaining until the election, the National Organization for Women (NOW), a normally powerful political advocacy group, has failed to
endorse a candidate.  Coincidentally, another of the political factors that UNICEF points out as contributing to domestic violence is “Limited organization of women as a political force”.

      Kentucky is on the front line of the political and cultural contest that puts domestic violence on the back burner in the U.S.  Interestingly, “Domestic violence not taken seriously” is also on the UNICEF list of factors that contribute to domestic violence. Under two Republican Senators, and mostly Republican Representatives, the State Police reported that domestic violence shelters served 3,986, but was unable to provide housing for 3,070 others. Was the victim one of those?  As the report points out “A woman and her children may come to a domestic violence program facility several times over the course of a year, but these figures only reflect the first time they enter a facility, or receive non-residential services.”  The facilities served an additonal 23,238 people coping with or fleeing domestic violence with guidance and counseling.  It is not clear if the killer’s violent past included domestic violence, or if the victim sought help, but it is clear that the services are not adequate in Kentucky to meet the need if over 3,000 victims in need of help were unable to escape a violent situation.  Public services such as those that serve victims of domestic violence are, like most public services, not as popular with Republican legislators on either the state or federal level.   Guns are popular with the Republican party in general, and while it may or may not be helpful for more women to carry them, this man with a known history of violent behavior was obviously a bad risk. These deaths should come as no surprise to those who have failed to legislate in the interest of the most vulnerable segments of the population because “Access to firearms yields a more than five-fold increase in risk of intimate partner homicide. statistics

      Rand Paul, the eye surgeon and Republican nominee for Senate in Kentucky, may be better known for his comment to the unemployed, “quit whining”, and for questions surrounding his board-certification, than for any position regarding women’s rights or issues.   He is known, however, for his strong association with the Tea Party movement, and with ultra-conservative values.   Fortunately, the women of Kentucky have taken note, and have shown a growing disdain for Rand Paul and his throw-back rhetoric to 1950’s America, which was no idealized surf party for most U.S. women. The Democratic nominee, Jack Conway, in contrast, has supported legislation that would make preventive health screenings and care available to women through their health coverage at no cost, but is considered to be generally conservative on most other issues.   Still, you take what you can get.  While Conway would seem the better choice for women, Kentucky is a traditionally Republican state, as you can see from the map here.  Hopefully the women will muster the voter registration and turn out to vote in November.

      Mount Carmel, Kentucky, experienced a tragedy of domestic violence today.   While that may be a shock for this small town, Kentucky is obviously no stranger to domestic violence, even if their legislators have not met the challenge.   Across this country, every day, other families are experiencing the tragedy of domestic violence daily.  The national cultural and political environment can not be separated from the consequences to individual lives.   That environment of increasingly harsh political action and rhetoric contributes directly to poverty and violence against women and children in Kentucky and nationwide.   Those political and media platforms that will not yield on issues like gun control, on issues like women’s rights, on social services, and that continue to falsely market themselves as protective of “family values”, and “traditional values”, are parties to the deaths in Kentucky and elsewhere.   When the Kentucky families bury their dead it would be in their best interests to bury their affinity for what they formerly knew as the Republican party as well.   In the upcoming November election domestic violence can not be separated from the social and political environment in which it thrives.  Those who care about the lives lost in Kentucky today, and the future of women and girls in this country, should consider their votes carefully this November.

Wind Energy vs. the Power Players in the U.S. Energy Discussion


          Worldwide energy demands  will increase considerably over the coming decades (U.S. Energy Information Agency [E.I.A.], 2010c, p.1, para. 1).  Energy demands in the U.S. are also expected to increase.  Leading authorities on energy, the environment, and the economy have encouraged the U.S. to make energy production from renewable energy sources a priority (Atlantic Council, 2010 p. 4).  Thanks in part to efforts at the state level, wind energy is growing faster than any other renewable energy source, but still has only a small share of the U.S. energy market (E.I.A., 2010d).  Congress has been somehow distracted from the need to provide incentives that would nurture the industry’s growth and increased market share.  The U.S. needs to focus on using wind energy to satisfy more of its energy needs.

          Coal provides more of the U.S. need for electrical energy than any other source.  The U.S. derived 31% of its electrical energy needs from coal in 2008 (E.I.A., 2010a).  The E.I.A. went on to say,

Coal’s share of total net generation continued its downward trend, accounting for 48.2 percent in 2008 as compared to 48.5 percent in 2007 and 52.8 percent in 1997.  Nevertheless, providing 1,986 million MWh [Mega-Watt hours], it remains the primary source of baseload generation in the United States.” (2010e, p. 11, para. 3).

          The 2008 figures differ from the same source in the reports, presumably depending upon different  measurement bases, but both place coal with a market share of anywhere from 31 to 48.2 percent in 2008, the highest of any other source.  The E.I.A. (2006) projections of future energy needs through 2030, upon which many more recent discussions have relied, had also suggested that coal would not only be an increasing source of energy for many years to come, but a leading one.  A consortium begun by scientists and students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) arrived at their own conclusions, noting that coal had risen to hold a 54% share of the U.S. electrical energy supply in a report where they went on to ascribe the coal industry the dubious honor of being the leading cause of air pollution in the U.S. (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2009). 

          Coal’s reputation as a polluter precedes it into any energy debate.  The association of sulfur dioxide (SO2) with acid rain makes it one of the more widely recognized air pollutants produced by the process of converting coal into electricity.  In 2005 alone, U.S. electrical generation produced over ten million tons of SO2 (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [E.P.A.], 2009a).  The problem was even more precisely described in a later report by the E.P.A. “The largest sources of SO2 emissions are from fossil fuel combustion at power plants (73%)“ (2010).  Addressing water pollution, a study of the downstream effects of mountaintop coal removal operations found that “Surface coal mining with valley fills has impaired the aquatic life in numerous streams in the Central Appalachian Mountains“ (Pond, G., Passmore, M., Borsuk, F., Reynolds, L. & Rose, C., 2008, Abstract).  Not surprisingly, this raised the ire of environmental groups that now actively promote public awareness of the problem (Natural Resources Defense Council, 2010).

          Not to diminish the environmental consequences to wildlife, including fish, coal is produced at a historically high, direct cost in human lives as well (National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health, 2010).  In April of 2010 alone 29 people died in the Massey mine methane explosion disaster in West Virginia (Urbina, I., 2010).  Massey sued the very regulators responsible for investigating the mine explosion and deaths, claiming that the ventilation requirements required by law, and enforced by the regulators, violated the company’s constitutional rights (Maher, K., 2010).  The article, which appeared in The Wall Street Journal, goes on to point out that while mine ventilation was involved in the April explosion due to trapped methane, a natural gas, the lawsuit in June involved those specific ventilation regulations designed to reduce coal dust accumulations, pointing out that “Inhaling coal dust can lead to black-lung disease” (p. 1).  Congress had already acknowledged its awareness of this industry-specific, incurable condition by passing the Black Lung Benefits Act to provide taxpayer funds to pay for disability claims, medical care, and compensation to victims of black lung disease (U.S. Department of Labor, 2010).  A study in 2004 confirmed that reductions in deaths from black lung disease corresponded to reductions in coal mining operations in general (Richards, J. & Obanour, R., 2009).  The Black Lung Benefits Act is an example of indirect subsidization of an industry, in this case the coal industry, through relief of its responsibility and accountability for medical and disability expenses directly attributable to its impact on human health.  The budget for The Black Lung Benefits Act was $563 million in 2009, and $1 billion, 333 million in 2008 (U.S. Office of Management and Budget and Federal agencies, 2009).  Despite the fact that, in combination with petroleum, the coal energy industry enjoyed 79 billion dollars in direct and indirect subsidies from Congress between 2000 and 2008, that may or may not be appropriately attributed in government ledgers to the industries in question due to government accounting rules (E.L.I., 2009), those expanded figures do not include expenses related to healthcare, including Medicaid, Medicare, VA, or social security payments for medical care or disability arising from accidents or illnesses attributable to the industry.  These subsidies, direct or indirect, keep the prices of electricity produced by coal artificially low at the expense of taxpayers.  Because many of these expenses are not included in government accounting of the costs of the industry to taxpayers or reflected in the cost of the energy produced, coal may continue to provide the superficial appearance of an economically feasible energy source in the U.S. long after its usefulness to the U.S. energy picture has passed.  Sadly, “There are approximately 1,450 coal-fired generating units in the US with 83 potential new plants on the horizon, representing a total of over 47GWe [GigaWatts] additional capacity” (Atlantic Council, 2010, p. 1, para. 6).  In comparison, the same report states that, “EIA forecasts that by 2035, the US will add 93 GWe of new renewable capacity (biomass, geothermal, hydro, solar, and wind) to the existing 139 GWe of installed renewable electric generating capacity” (p. 2).  In light of the differences in efficiency, pollution, and the cost in human life, the question remains why any coal-fired plants are even under consideration, let alone in direct competition with renewable sources for a share of the U.S. energy market.

          Part of the answer may be in the unveiling and promotion of Clean Coal and Carbon Capture Sequestration (CCS) technologies that promised to reduce air pollution.  Those technologies may have sounded appealing enough to members of Congress, along with the somewhat slanted industry subsidy costs, to make them affable toward the industry’s continued support.  Those technologies did not withstand scrutiny either, and were discredited by the scientific community (Biello, 2007).  Most voting consumers were not even aware of, let alone involved, in the debates about the alleged CCS solution (Curry, Reiner, Ansolabehere, & Herzog, 2004).  Interestingly, Congress may have been well aware of the clean coal claims of CCS as justification of further coal subsidies, but they appear to have remained surprisingly under-informed of their failure.  While the public might have taken for granted that their elected officials actually referred to fact-based information in conservatively allocating taxpayer funds, a non-partisan study found that Congress had in fact provided 2.3 billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies to carbon capture and storage technologies between 2002 and 2008 (Environmental Law Institute (E.L.I., 2009).  That is 2.3 billion dollars to subsidize the development and implementation of a speculative technology by officials elected to learn the issues and vote on them so that the public wouldn’t need to; bringing into question the very foundation upon which a functioning republic of elected representation is designed to function.  In their press release regarding the findings of their research into the issue, Environmental Law Institute (E.L.I.) concluded that “energy subsidies highly favored energy sources that emit high levels of greenhouse gases [of which sulphur dioxide is just one]…” (2009, p.1).  E.L.I. Senior Attorney John Pendergrass was more direct in describing the subsidies as having “distorted energy policy,” stating that. “… more attention needs to be given to the existing perverse incentives for ‘dirty’ fuels in the U.S. Tax Code” (2009, p. 1).  Rather than conclude that Congress knowingly acted in support of “perverse incentives,” either intentionally or through willful ignorance, it may be preferable to question the sources upon which they have been relying for information.

          Nuclear power is another energy industry that produces a significant portion of the U.S. energy supply.  “Between 1997 and 2008, the nuclear share of total net generation ranged from a low of 18.0 percent to a high of 20.6 percent, with an annual average growth of 2.3 percent …” (E.I.A., 2010e, p. 11, para. 5).  Like coal, the nuclear energy industry enjoys subsidies that lower the perceived cost per unit of energy, or, in other words, the efficient return in energy for each dollar spent, by shifting a significant part of the expenses related to production to taxpayers.  Of course, the full amount of those costs subsidizing nuclear energy cannot be quantified or measured because they will continue to exist as long as nuclear waste from that production remains toxic, which is at best guess at least 1 million years.  Also like coal, nuclear energy obviously has its own share of public relations problems, including the permanence of the toxic waste created by the industry, the temporary storage of that waste on the grounds of the power plants, and in recent news, the contamination of a watershed in New Jersey by a leaking toxic waste storage facility (Hurst, T., 2010).  Nuclear accidents can have long-standing environmental consequences, and the association with nuclear weaponry is impossible for the industry to distance itself from, since an accidental nuclear explosion or exposure have very similar long-term consequences to people and the environment as an intentional one.  A perception of nuclear energy as equivalent to nuclear bombs may have played a large role in the decreasing popularity of nuclear power in recent years, both in the U.S. and abroad.  Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto conveys the dread and awe that is associated with nuclear power in his ingenious time-lapse map of nuclear explosions from 1945 to the present day (Quigley, R., 2010).  While the long-term environmental and human health effects and costs of accidents at nuclear power plants are still being tallied at places like Chernobyl and 3-mile island, the prospect of further investment in this industry as opposed to safer, efficient ones like wind could explain the investment-aversion to the industry displayed by the marketplace of private and bank investors and financiers.

“Without nuclear safety, in this era of proliferating nuclear weapons, global security will be a dream; and in a world with 58 still operating Soviet-designed nuclear power reactors, sustainability will only be a mirage. According to a Russian official, all the commercial nuclear reactors operating on Russian territory are nothing better than “bombs temporarily generating electricity” (Meshkati, N., 2007, Abstract).

          Since Russia was well-known as a world leader in nuclear power technologies we can only guess about what their scientists and officials would say about the risks associated with reactors still operating in the U.S., especially since it wasn’t made clear if any of those on U.S. soil are Soviet designs.  Increasing concerns about terrorist activity in the U.S. would only heighten the risks associated with the operation of nuclear power reactors, making them clearly potential “bombs” that would serve as sources of both electricity and anxiety for citizens who may not be as risk-tolerant as a Congress willing to entertain even the remotest prospect of reviving nuclear energy as a future source of electricity in this country.

          While nuclear energy is still in widespread use, it may be to the government’s credit that it has not been a growing source in recent years.

“An industry that didn’t exist 40 years ago is now at its peak of production, producing 20 percent of the nation’s electricity. Ironically, though, the industry is fading out. New orders ceased 20 years ago, and as aging plants reach the end of their lives, they are closing, one by one” (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2010a, para. 3).

          While the public entrusts Congress to weigh the relative costs, risks, and economic contributions of pending laws, two separate pieces of legislation are in the U.S. Senate at this time which would provide significant funding by taxpayers for the nuclear energy industry.  “If the industry is able to secure federal approval to build the 31 new reactors it is expected to request, UCS found that total proposed subsidies could be worth from $65 billion to as much as $147 billion” (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2010b).  In a study by physicists of the anticipated returns in energy on future investments in nuclear power plants, wind farm technologies available at the time of the study were compared to existing nuclear, coal, and newly-developed fusion technologies.  Wind energy production received an energy payback ratio (EPR) of 23, coal only 12, and nuclear fission only 16, while the advanced fusion reactor plants received 23 and 26 respectively, depending upon the specific design (White, S., Kulcinski, G., 2008, summarized).  Following that study, wind energy technology took a sudden leap forward with the development of new turbines that double the energy output that was typical at the time of the study.  That increased efficiency may place wind energy well in front of an energy race based on Energy Payback Ratios, perhaps even considerably ahead of the latest nuclear fusion technologies.  The now or never impetus of the nuclear energy industry to move Congress to prop up the nuclear industry at this time may be due in part to these new revelations; which may make it apparent in the near future that nuclear is not all it’s cracked up to be.  Hopefully Congress will explore those motives along with current data before giving a gift of taxpayer funds to the nuclear power industry to build more electricity-producing “bombs” on U.S. soil.

          Unlike nuclear, natural gas has developed a much more recent environmental public relations crisis.  Sensationalized in the “Gasland” movie, there is a growing public distrust of gas well drilling techniques due to the potential for air and water contamination by hydrogen sulfide and other hazardous chemicals (, 2010, movie trailer video).  Even studies performed for The World Health Organization support some concern for the air pollution resulting from natural gas production, including the concerns raised over hydrogen sulfide gas, but those same studies generally fail to explore the groundwater contamination issue, like this one that is dismissive of any relevance of groundwater contamination to a discussion of human health (Chou, 2003).  Of course, most people with science backgrounds above a fourth-grade level in the U.S. may know that household water may become aerosolized, in showers for instance, and that water and many gasses evaporate.  Logical contradictions that arise due to failures to succinctly address concerns about air quality resulting from groundwater contamination could lead to a general distrust of not only the information presented, but the sources of that information.  Incidents like the Deepwater Horizon oil well explosion that resulted from natural gas only add to public anxiety about the safety of drilling, the safety of natural gas in general, the integrity of government and regulatory bodies, and the reliability of information disseminated to the public (Hammer, & Shleifstein, 2010), all of which can only lead to increasing degrees of civil unrest, and a general distaste for oil and gas industries in general.

          According to the E.I.A., natural gas remains a prevailing source of electrical energy in the U.S.

“Natural gas-fired generation accounted for 21.4 percent of total net generation in 2008, down from 21.6 percent in 2007. Despite the decrease, natural-gas fired generation was the second leading contributor to total net generation for the third consecutive year, surpassing nuclear generation, which had a 19.6 percent share of total net generation” (2010e, p. 11, para. 4).

Despite the established position of the natural gas industry in the U.S. economy, Congress has shown an on-going, seemingly arbitrary commitment to a continuing failed strategy of attempts to stimulate the economy through gift-giving to fossil fuel industries.  How the government describes and justifies just some of these subsidies is interesting, with one specifically described by the E.I.A. (2008), when they stated that

“The attribution and allocation of these subsidies to electric generation by fuel type is premised on the fact that government expenditures that promote such economic activities ultimately provide benefits to electricity producers that consume that particular fuel. For example, the expensing of natural gas and oil exploration and development costs reduces producers’ current period taxable income, which provides an incentive to invest in capital equipment to explore and develop natural gas and oil resources situated in deep water or in remote and geologically complex onshore locations.”

“By subsidizing the initial foray of exploration and development that harbor potential plentiful domestic supplies that are not commercially viable at current market prices, the industry is able to develop new technologies and methods that may hasten the commercial viability of bringing geologically remote energy supplies to market” (p. 6).

          The description provides only one practical association at that time between petroleum exploration and the U.S. electrical supply, although the cited report does allocate funds for the same.  The report says, in simpler terms, that energy producers that engage in oil and gas exploration should receive help paying their own electricity bills so that they can spend the saved money on risky projects that they are not only unwilling to risk their own money on, but are unable to find investors for.  It is notable that only oil and gas industries were “explained” in this unique way in the report.  No explanation was offered for why fledgling renewable industries requiring substantial start-up capital would require financial assistance in order to become competitive.  That may have been because the soundness of the economic reasons to invest in renewable sources were apparent even before the costs of cleaning up a disaster like the BP / Horizon were prominent in the public psyche.  It may be impossible to separate the pollution or consequences of drilling for oil from those of drilling for gas, since the studies of chemicals associated with either apply as much to gas exploration by means of the new fractured shale techniques being used today as they did to previous oil and gas exploration methods.  It may be beyond impossible for the Electrical Energy Information Agency to explain why Congress was unable to distinguish between the natural gas electrical energy production industry and the deep-water oil exploration industry in allocating subsidies under the “alternative energy production tax credit”, let alone their inclusion under “renewables.”  That they even attempted to was notable.

          In exploring the appropriateness of including natural gas in a broad definition of renewable or even alternative energy under the tax credit, relevant information would include the observation that “While utilizing natural gas for electricity (or transportation fuels) does reduce CO2 emissions, they are not entirely eliminated as conventional gas-fired plants emit only 40% less CO2 than coal-fired plants” (Atlantic Council, 2010, p. 8, 3.2.1, para. 2).  Despite readily-available information like this the natural gas industry continues to package natural gas as a “clean” fuel, not 40% cleaner, and Congress continues to describe natural gas as the “bridge” to renewable energy.  All of this is taking place in a context of increasing arguments regarding global warming that, for all of their potential weight and merit, may actually diminish and discredit the more immediate pollution issues presented by natural gas.  Without even getting deeply into the global warming debate over CO2 emissions, methane (the chief component of natural gas) traps heat 25 times more effectively than carbon.  The time may be here for the U.S. to cross that “bridge” to a more sensible, and immediate, energy debate or acknowledge that the congressional debate on energy policy is nothing more than a marginally-entertaining farce played out on a bridge that goes nowhere. 

          The chemical composition of natural gas from wells varies geographically, but may also include methane, pentane and butane (Union Gas Ltd., 2010).  All three chemicals are known hazards (Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety, 1996), (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 1996), (CDC, 2010).  Pentane and butane are specifically associated with poly-nuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  PAHs are one group of chemicals that have received recent attention in the context of discussions of the health consequences of second-hand tobacco smoke (U.S. Surgeon General, 2007).  Revkin & Krauss (2009) quantify the problem, stating that “…some three trillion cubic feet of methane leak into the air every year” (p.1), but go on to quote an environmental advisor to British Petroleum, Reid Smith, who points out that the industry has an interest in maximizing profits by reducing leaks by stating that “We spend a lot of money to get gas to the surface…It makes a huge amount of sense to get all of it through the sales meter.” (p.1).  If Americans have the right to live in a smoke-free environment free from the assault of second-hand smoke, it would seem reasonable to suggest that they might have the right to live in an air-pollution-free environment free of the pollutants emitted by coal-fired energy production plants, and not just 40% freer from emissions by way of properly functioning natural gas energy production plants, but the other 60% as well, along with being free from “three trillion cubic feet of methane,” and an indeterminate amount of related toxic hydrocarbon gasses that spew out with it (Revkin & Krauss, 2009).  Since CCS does not work to make coal or natural gas “clean”, it may seem reasonable for Congress to determine that no new natural gas or coal-fired electrical generation plants should be allowed in the U.S., and existing ones should be closed, but even swaying them from the further, now clearly perverse, subsidization of those industries with taxpayer dollars is unlikely.  Wind energy electrical production, in contrast, is associated with none of these issues.

          The primary environmental arguments against wind are almost comical in comparison to those of other energy sources.  Avian mortality from turbines, and environmental aesthetics are the leading two.  Avian mortality due to turbines is significantly lower than avian mortality due to housecats (American Wind Energy Association [AWEA], 2009b).  Despite this, the industry has shown its commitment to the environment by investing heavily in finding ways to reduce or eliminate avian mortality, and preliminary findings are very promising, including the simple retrofit practices of using stripes or a single black blade to increase visibility (Hodos, 2001, p. 4).  When a Cape Cod offshore wind farm was first proposed it met with strong opposition and arguments that it would damage the environmental aesthetics of the coast.  The movement to block the wind farm was defeated.  An article in a Cape Cod newspaper explored the psychology behind aesthetics, in part because property values with views of the new wind farm actually increased.  They concluded that the associations that the leaders of the opposition may have made between the turbines and the decline of the fossil fuel industries that they were personally invested in had altered their perceptions of beauty, while others who associated the turbines with environmentally-sound practices, stable prices and energy independence found them beautiful (Pavlides, 2005).  In a similar instance of weighing renewable energy options for islands off the coast of India, wind and solar were considered comparable in viability, but wind presented disadvantages in shipping, transport and erection.  In this onshore application wind was ultimately given preference in the recommendations due to its reduced land area requirements and the fact that it could be double-cropped with the existing vegetation, primarily tall palm trees, without interference or significant alteration of the resort value of the aesthetics of the islands (Krishnapillai, & Boele, 2003).

          While there are some myths about alternative energy that do drive a small part of the conversation, and are easily dismissed, the implementation of proactive measures in the areas of conservation, renewable technologies, and a general shifting over to renewable sources make sense (Grunwald, 2009).  The public is perhaps vulnerable to myth, conjecture and conspiracy theories that target industries, corporations, and the elected officials that support them.  This is perceived to be such a threat by the U.S. government that there is now a government website dedicated to the sole purpose of disarming them (U.S. Dept. of State, 2010).  It would not be surprising to find that Congress would dismiss the concerns of voters regarding energy and the environment as being fueled by conspiracy in light of the ongoing arguments related to global warming, the mortgage loan and banking debacle, and the general panic and alarm surrounding events like the Horizon spill.  A comprehensive study of the role that conspiracy theories have historically played found that these alternative viewpoints and scrutiny are sometimes at least partially fact-based, often shape popular opinion, affect consumer markets, enhance political discourse by pointing out the contradictory information that brings them about, enrich society by adding to the complexity of our world, and are vital to maintaining a free society by virtue of their ability to draw attention to errors and aberrations in government (West, & Sanders, 2003).

“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”–Robert J. Hanlon / Robert Heinlein

          Since wind is the current leader among renewable energy sources, passage of the alternative energy production tax credit for a longer term would eliminate the roller coaster of growth and development that has resulted from the frequent interruptions to this tax credit (World Resources Institute, 2008).  In a recent example of the problems directly-attributable to lapses in tax credit renewals, “Vestas Wind Systems A/S, Siemens AG and Suzlon Energy Ltd. may end up with underused U.S. [turbine/component] factories as cheap natural gas and a lack of federal support reduce wind turbine deliveries this year by as much as 50 percent” (Martin, C., 2010).  Subsidies can make such a difference that, in 2000, 23,453 MW (megawatts) of new electric capacity was added in the U.S.  Of this, almost 95 percent, or 22,238 MW were natural gas fired additions” (Natural Gas Supply Association, 2004).  

          Determining what is, and is not, a subsidy, and what qualifies as alternative or renewable energy, seem to present such difficulty that the E.I.A. (2008) provided this interesting narrative with its table of subsidy dollars per megawatt of electrical-production to explain the “substantial” effect they have on the market prices, and therefore the consumer preference, for fuels from different sources.

“Electricity production subsidies and support per unit of production (dollars per megawatthour) vary widely by fuel. Coal-based synfuels (refined coal) that are eligible for the alternative fuels tax credit, solar power, and wind power receive, by far, the highest subsidies per unit of generation, ranging from more than $23 to nearly $30 per megawatthour of generation … Subsidies and support for these generation sources are substantial in relationship to the price or cost of electricity at the wholesale or enduser level. The average U.S. electricity price was about $53 per megawatthour at the wholesale level in 2006 and about $92 per megawatthour to end users in all sectors in FY 2007…the production tax credit,which provides producers with a credit per unit of electricity production, is often recognized as having given rise to much of the recent additions to wind generation capacity.  Still, given wind generation’s small share of the overall electricity market, it is doubtful that this added capacity has had much of an impact upon overall electricity prices” (p.15)

          It is important to note not only that coal was included in “alternative fuels” for the tax credit purposes, but the information provided for 2007 in a table referenced in those figures by the E.I.A., also includes the details that coal and refined coal received $3,010,000,000. in subsidies, while wind energy received only $725,000,000. during the same period (2008).  In the report data the E.I.A. indicates that more than $3.2 billion dollars went to fossil fuel industries including petroleum and coal, and $1.2 billion dollars went to the nuclear energy industry as part of the “renewable energy” subsidies category for that year, while less than $1 billion dollars went to all remaining categories of “renewables”, including wind, solar, hydroelectric, biofuel, municipal waste, biomass, geothermal, landfill mass and “unallocated” “renewables.”

“Refined-coal-related generation receives the largest subsidy in absolute terms, at roughly $2 billion, as well as the highest perunit value at $29.81 per megawatthour. Renewable electricity production, in aggregate, received subsidies totaling $1.0 billion, but the per-unit subsidy in aggregate is $2.80 per megawatthour” (2008, p. 15). 

          While the accounting approach used by the E.I.A. (2008) may be interesting to say the least, the bottom line on subsidy dollars per megawatt hour in 2007 shows that refined coal market prices were directly affected by just those limited direct subsidies included in the report at a rate of $29.81 per megawatt hour, while wind energy prices were affected by those subsidies at a rate of only $23.37 per megawatt hour (p. 18).  While the obvious $6.44 price advantage to a fossil fuel source versus a renewable one under an alternative energy tax credit may raise an eyebrow, it is important to keep in mind that this does not represent the full pricing advantage granted to fossil fuel industries by way of U.S. taxpayer dollars.  To reiterate, these figures do not address the additional subsidized price advantages enjoyed by coal and other fossil fuel industries as the result of the indirect subsidies included in the $79 billion dollars in subsidies located and tallied by The Environmental Law Institute (2009) or those related to the remediation of the health and/or environmental consequences related to fossil fuel industries, including those in the budget of the Black Lung Workers Act for coal industry workers.(U.S. Dept. of Labor, 2010).  .The study and accounting do bring into question why fossil fuels would be included in “alternative” and “renewable” energy categories, why they enjoy greater benefits under the tax incentives intended for renewables than renewables themselves, and why the E.I.A. would choose, in their narrative report, to be somewhat vague by noting that subsidies range from $23-$30 per MWh instead of being forthright in stating that $23 was the net reduction in price per MWh of electricity from wind, and $29.81 was the net reduction in price per MWh of electricity from coal, as is clearly shown in their own data.  The justification for the E.I.A.’s pointed narrative singling out only the wind energy industry with the observation that wind had specifically failed to provide enough competition to lower consumer prices for electricity was somewhat astonishing in light of the inclusion of fossil fuels in the renewable energy category, and the remarkable growth of wind in that year despite the obvious disparity in the “substantial” effect of market-price subsidies.

“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”–Robert J. Hanlon / Robert Heinlein

          While Congress is distracted by “politics-as-usual,” China is seizing the economic opportunity presented by wind energy right out from under the U.S. (Bradsher, 2010).  In his disturbing New York Times article, Hong Kong bureau chief and Pulitzer Prize finalist, Keith Bradsher raised the issue of the future of electrical energy in the U.S., pointing out the possibility that the U.S. may be trading dependence on Mideast oil for dependence on China’s production.  He quoted U.S. President Obama’s January 2010 State of the Union address to Congress, wherein the president said “I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders — and I know you don’t either,” and wherein the president called for a redoubling of U.S. efforts in the technological race with China (p.1).  President Obama’s concern may reflect his awareness that when the U.S. supports foreign industry over its own it adds to the U.S. trade deficit, which always has the potential to increase to the point that it could result in the economic instability of the country and the devaluation of its currency.  The loss of any industry to a competing country also hurts the U.S. economy through the loss of valuable jobs.  Congress may be as distracted by partisan politics from the economic needs of the U.S. as much as from its energy needs.

          At a time when unemployment is unusually high, and Americans are increasingly blaming their job losses on overseas competition, a single incident serves as an example of how some legislative focus would help.  “When a large wind farm in Texas cut a supply deal with a Chinese company to provide turbines produced by its low-cost labor pool, it raised alarm, prompting calls on Congress to intervene” (Bradsher, 2010).  Congress could intervene in several ways, but tariffs and other measures are largely off the table for diplomatic and far-reaching economic reasons.  Wind energy turbines are large, cumbersome and heavy. They require expensive shipping and handling to cross the country, and more to cross an ocean.  Domestic turbine manufacturers save on shipping and enjoy a domestic steel supply that helps to offset China’s low-cost labor and other advantages, including its own heavily-subsidized steel industry.  Without a stable tax incentive of long-duration the domestic manufacturers are nonetheless having difficulty maintaining a competitive price advantage because the industry is still in its infancy, requiring new land, factory, and equipment investments.  Foreign turbine purchases like those involved in the Texas wind farm example represent lost U.S. jobs, lost U.S. taxes, and lost U.S. trade.  The suppression of wind as an industry also indirectly costs U.S. farmers, and ultimately U.S. citizens, in food costs.  “A single, utility-scale wind turbine provides $3,000 / year per megawatt or more in income to a landowner leasing his wind rights.  Farmers continue to grow crops up to the base of the turbines located on their land” (AWEA, 2008).  This industry-supported subsidization of another industry, in this case agriculture, is another reason for supporting wind energy, not only through a tax incentive to the energy production sites that will ultimately cost the U.S. budget nothing, but through tax incentives to the manufacturing industry.  Such tax incentives to turbine manufacturers will also cost the U.S. taxpayer nothing because in their absence the turbines and components will continue to be manufactured more cheaply overseas.  No other fossil fuel or renewable energy source provides all of these basic economic incentives, let alone for free.

          Wind energy is becoming an increasingly exciting investment worldwide as the industry is wide open to innovation, growth and competition.  An investment report encouraged investors to look at wind, noting that despite increased efficiency, better land-utilization and market trends, 95% of the world’s wind turbine market was supplied by only 10 manufacturers in 2007 (Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc., 2007).  Seven out of these ten already had facilities manufacturing approximately 50% of their components in 40 U.S. states by 2009, and they were producing turbines made from 90% steel, which is potentially great news for the U.S. steel industry (Salerno, & Isaacs, 2009).  This also means that as new manufacturers enter the market there exist opportunities for more efficient technologies, competition, and lower electricity prices for consumers. 

          Wind energy jobs are real, but if Congress fails to give wind energy a chance, those jobs will also go by the wayside.  The wind energy industry is directly employing over 100,000 workers in the European Union (EU) in everything from general labor to supervisory positions, and requires more qualified workers with secondary education in fields like project management in order to continue to meet demand (European Wind Energy Association, 2009).  The EU has a stronger wind turbine manufacturing presence than the U.S., with more factories, but less opportunity for future growth of their wind industry due to geographic considerations.  The U.S. wind energy industry already employs 80,000 workers, but faces potential layoffs and cut-backs not only due to the lack of tax incentives, but the lack of cooperation and coordination among U.S. government agencies in providing prompt approval of new wind energy production (U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, 2008).

          The competitive advantages of wind energy have already been so apparent from profit and liability viewpoints that the rapid growth of the wind energy industry was even a topic of discussion at the annual conference of the American Institute of Physics.  “At the end of 2006, the total U.S. wind energy capacity had grown to 11,603 MW, or enough to provide the electrical energy needs of more than 2.9 million American homes.  Wind capacity in the United States and in Europe has grown at a rate of 20% to 30% per year over the past decade” (Thresher, Robinson, & Veers. 2008, Figure 1).  Fair domestic competition could be established through removal of the market handicap that has already been placed on the wind energy industry through current industry distributions of existing subsidies (Wiser, Bolinger, & Barbose, 2007).  This would cost the U.S. taxpayer nothing because the production tax breaks are already there, and are hinged to consumer consumption, not construction or production.  That means that if the end-user uses 1000 watts of electricity this month, the producer plant, whether coal-fired, nuclear or natural gas, is already enjoying tax-break subsidies on each watt they sold to the end-user by way of a power company.

          Worldwide energy demands will increase by a factor of 1.49, or 49%, over the next 25 years [1.96% per year] (U.S. Energy Information Agency [E.I.A.], 2010c).  To put that into a historical context, U.S. energy production from fossil fuels grew by a factor of 2.02, or 202% [1.73%], in the 59 years from 1949 to 2008, and production from renewable sources grew by a factor of 2.32, or 232%, [2.24% per year] during the same period (E.I.A., 2008).  U.S. producers had already increased their overall summer energy production capacity to over one-million megawatts by 2008 (E.I.A. 2010a).  These figures show that renewable sources have a proven track record of growth that has exceeded that of fossil fuel sources over a span of 59 years.

          The Atlantic Council (2010) cites one projection that “US electric power generation will increase from 4000 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2005 to over 5000 billion kWh by 2030 [5 million GigaWatts]” (p. 7, 3.1, para. 2).  Hydroelectric power from large dam projects has been the largest contributor of renewable energy to the U.S. energy mix, solar power has been the smallest.  Contributions from wind increased by 151 trillion btus from 2008 to 2009, for a 2009 total contribution by wind of 697 trillion btus in the U.S. (E.I.A., 2010b).  The E.I.A. stated that wind energy  had grown to hold 1.3% of the market in 2008, up from only .88% the year before, but this been the result of what amounts to a tug-of-war between renewable energy incentives that have passed more at the state level, in competition with greater fossil fuel subsidies at the federal level (E.I.A., 2010d), (N.C. State Univ., 2010);  federal subsidies that some speculate may be as much as “500% higher” (Williams, C., 2010).  Wind energy, while again a growth leader in 2009, still held less than 1% of the market, as it had two years earlier (Bohn, 2009).  Wind energy’s vacillation around the 1% share of the U.S. market despite market enthusiasm and technology that have propelled its leadership in growth among the renewables reinforces the conclusion that Congress has been somehow distracted from the situation.

          While energy demands are expected to increase. “…none of the significant forecasts for likely electric power generation portfolios agree substantively” (Atlantic Council, 2010, p. 1, para. 4).  The very lack of forecasts based solely on the technology, resource availability and efficiency of energy production sources shows that the scientific community has despaired of the idea that either science or economics could be the driving forces behind future energy policy rather than the toxic mix of air-polluting political rhetoric, partisan politics and industry influence through campaign finance, media block purchases and direct lobbying.  That despair speaks poorly for Congress, for the future of U.S. energy policy, for the future of the U.S. economy, and even for the future of science and technology, but it won’t hold back the wind.  

          The need to meet future demands for energy in the U.S. is a hot topic in the realm of energy policy.  The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) (2008) concluded that wind, with growth that year of 4,000MWh, was on track to meet or exceed the goal of supplying 20% of the energy need anticipated in the U.S. by 2030.  Moving beyond those projections, the AWEA (2009a) celebrated the news that “The U.S. wind energy industry had shattered all previous records in 2008 by installing 8,358 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity” (p.1).  The U.S. wind energy industry broke records and projections yet again in 2009 by installing 9,900 MWh of new generating capacity, along with celebrating that 

“…a new assessment from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory showing that U.S. wind resources are larger than previously estimated:…”… Onshore U.S. wind resources could generate nearly 37,000,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) annually [37 billion MWh], more than nine times current total U.S. electricity consumption [approx.. 4.1 billion MWh]….  Put another way, the potential capacity of America’s onshore wind resource is over 10,000 gigawatts (GW). The U.S. is barely tapping this vast resource: current wind installed capacity is 35 GW in the U.S. and 158 GW world-wide. …These larger estimates are due to improved wind turbine technology…and to more refined wind measurements. The previous national government survey of U.S. wind resources, carried out by the Pacific Northwest Laboratory, estimated U.S. wind potential at 10,777,000 GWh… The wind turbine fleet in place at year’s end—over 35,000 MW—is enough to power the equivalent of some 9.7 million homes, and that number is increasing at the rate of a million homes every five months”(AWEA, 2010).

          The E.I.A. (2010b) in their narrative report described current U.S. production as being “697trillion btus”.  Conversion equivalents of that figure are 204,270,536.MWh and 204,270GWh.  The Atlantic Council (2010) figures indicate a total U.S. demand of 5 million GWh (p.7, para. 2) by 2030.  Now in 2010, this leaves a remaining gap between current production and year 2030 goals of approximately 4.8 million GWh.

          If wind energy resources continue to grow at a flat rate of only 10,000 MWh per year from now until 2030, it alone will add another 200,000 MWh, or 200GWh to the U.S. energy supply.  Considering the ebbs and flows of production that have followed the renewals and lapses in the tax credit, a continuous long-term tax credit could be reasonably expected to increase that annual rate of growth by as much as 30%.  In addition, new technological advances now double that amount, raising a reasonable expectation for wind energy production growth to approximately 26,000 MWh per year.  If the tax subsidy was also increased for renewable energy sources by the bare minimum of enough to erase the several dollar per MWh disparity between wind and refined coal that exists under just the alternative energy production credit, it would be reasonable for the anticipated 43 GWh growth in coal-fired production additions during that time to also shift over to wind.  That brings wind to a reasonably anticipated growth as an electrical energy production industry to a total of 598,000 MWh. by 2030.  If there is one thing that we know about Congress, it is that they have an extraordinary gift for giving specific industries distinct market advantages through legislation. Knowing that, it is not unreasonable to expect that additional considerations by Congress in ensuring departmental cooperation, in securing amendments of current dirty fuel subsidies to grant wind it’s rightful place as a price leader, and in providing further investment in wind technology could more than double those growth figures again, to 1.126 million MWh above current levels.  If the U.S. is consuming approximately 1 million MWh in electrical energy per year now, wind appears to be more than capable of producing that much, along with another 126,000 MWh to satisfy anticipated demand growth by 2030, for a total of 1,126.34GWh of truly clean energy production that barely scratches the domestic resource capacity of wind of 37,000,000 GWh.  If no other fledgling energy sources other than wind are brought online or increased between now and 2030, but all other existing sources are instead maintained at current levels, then U.S. electrical energy production under this scenario could reach 2.126 million MWh, or 2,126 GWh, or a production capacity growth of more than double a current electrical energy production figure of 1 million MWh.  This is substantially higher than the 22% increase needed if that increase is applied from the current year.  It remains substantially higher if the 22% growth is based on earlier years of production.  It is however substantially lower than the 4.8million GWh goal derived from the Atlantic Council (2010) report, which in turn was based on E.I.A. figures.  In a climate of data, debate, and considerable jockeying for the attention of Congress with facts and figures arguing both in favor of increased energy production to meet energy goals that no one can seem to agree upon at the same as drastically altering the composition of the U.S. energy production market, it’s no wonder that Congress might be somewhat distracted.  Regardless of what the projections are, or the demand at that time, 2030 will arrive in 20 years to bear witness to current considerations of the data.  The track record of wind in comparison to other renewables, and in comparison to fossil fuels, makes it clear that it is the safest bet for completing the race toward whatever energy goals the U.S. may aspire to.

          Congress is faced with the need to meet projections for higher future energy demand in the U.S., while simultaneously trying to reduce government expenditures as the country pulls out of a deep economic recession.  It is trying to do this while at the same time accommodating a growing global movement to combat global warming through reductions in carbon emissions.  All of this comes at a time when pollution and safety considerations have Americans increasingly opposed to fossil fuel energy sources in general, but bans on offshore drilling have others up in arms about lost jobs at a time when unemployment has been high for a prolonged period.  This leaves Congress with few economically viable options, but focusing on wind energy attends to all of them.  Thanks to widespread resource availability that is now estimated to be capable of providing current levels of electrical production many times over, and to recent technological advances that have already doubled wind energy efficiency, the industry is up to the challenge of helping the U.S. to meet its energy goals with full private market support that is simply not available for the current predominate energy sources.  Wind can do all of this while not adding to the federal deficit, while not adding to carbon emissions, while reducing pollution, and while contributing to a safe healthy environment for humans and wildlife.  The industry can provide jobs in manufacturing and more, support the domestic steel industry, and help to redeem the U.S. image damaged by the Gulf oil spill.  With a few strokes of a pen, followed by Congressional support, all of this is achievable with wind.  If only Congress would, or even could, focus on making it happen.


American Wind Energy Association. (2008). Wind energy fast facts. Retrieved from

American Wind Energy Association. (2009a). Wind energy grows by record 8,300 mw in 2008: Smart policies, stimulus bill needed to maintain momentum in 2009. Retrieved from

American Wind Energy Association. (2009b). Wind energy and wildlife. Retrieved from

American Wind Energy Association. (2010). U.S. wind resource even larger than previously estimated: Government assessment. Retrieved from

Atlantic Council. (2010). A realistic and balanced u.s. electric power generation portfolio. Washington, D.C.: Atlantic Council. Retrieved from

Biello, D. (2007, March 14). Future of “clean coal” power tied to (uncertain) success of carbon capture and storage. Scientific American, Retrieved from

Bohn, C., & Lant, C. (2009). Welcoming the Wind? Determinants of Wind Power Development Among U.S. States. Professional Geographer, 61(1), 87-100. Retrieved from

Bradsher, K. (2010). China leading global race to make clean energy. The New York Times, Retrieved from (2010). Gasland trailer 2010. [Web]. Retrieved from

Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety. (1996). Health effects of methane. Retrieved from

Chou, S. (2003) Hydrogen Sulfide: Human Health Aspects. Concise International Chemical Assessment Document 53. Prepared for the World Health Organization. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.  Retrieved July 01, 2010, from World Wide Web;

Curry, T., Reiner, D., Ansolabehere, S., & Herzog, H. (2004). How Aware is the public of carbon capture and storage? Retrieved from

N.C. State Univ. (2010) Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE). North Carolina State University. Retrieved from

Environmental Law Institute  (2009). U.S. Tax Breaks Subsidize Foreign Oil Production.  Retrieved from

European Wind Energy Association (2009). Wind energy employment in europe. Wind Energy-The Facts, Retrieved from

Grunwald, M. (2009). Seven myths about alternative energy. Foreign Policy, (174), 130-133. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete Database.

Hammer, D., & Shleifstein, M. (2010, May 10). Gas surge shut well a couple of weeks before gulf oil spill. The Times Picayune, Retrieved from 

Hodos, W. (2001). Minimization of MotionSmear: Reducing Avian Collisions with Wind Turbines. NREL/SR-500-33249, Maryland. Retrieved from

Hurst, T. (2010)  U.S. oldest nuclear power plant leaking waste into aquifer. Ecopolitology. Retrieved from

Krishnapillai, S., & Boele, N. (2003). Putting a Lid on our Greenhouse Pollution. Habitat Australia, 31(4), 12. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

Maher, K. (2010) Mine Regulator Sued by Massey, The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

Martin, C. (2010). Wind-energy companies losing to cheap natural gas, lack of subsidies. The Denver Post. Retrieved from

Meshkati, N. (2007). Lessons of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident for Sustainable Energy Generation: Creation of the Safety Culture in Nuclear Power Plants Around the World. Energy Sources Part A: Recovery, Utilization & Environmental Effects, 29(9), 807-815.  Retrieved from World Wide Web;

Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. (2007, August 10). Wind turbine manufacturers; here comes the pricing power. Retrieved from .

National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health. (2010). Coal mining disasters. Retrieved from 
Natural Gas Supply Association. (2004). Electric generation using natural gas. Retrieved from 

Natural Resources Defense Council. (2010) No More Mountaintop Removal.

Pavlides, L. (2005, March 07). The Aesthetics of wind power. Providence Journal, Retrieved from

Pond, G., Passmore, M., Borsuk, F., Reynolds, L. & Rose, C. (2008)  Downstream effects of mountaintop coal mining: comparing biological conditions using family-and genus-level macroinvertebrate bioassessment tools, Abstract. Wheeling, WV : U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published online in 2009. Retrieved July 01, 2010, from World Wide Web;

Quigley, R. (2010) A time-lapse map of every nuclear explosion since 1945 (minus north korea’s) Geekosystem. Retrieved from

Revkin, A., Krauss, C. (2009) By degrees: Curbing emissions by sealing gas leaks. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Richards, J. & Obanour, R.( 2009) Coal Worker’s Pneumoconiosis, eMedicine, Medscape,  Retrieved from

Salerno, E., & Isaacs, J. (2009, April 17). The Economic Reach of Wind . Retrieved from

Thresher, R., Robinson, M., & Veers, P. (2008). The Status and Future of Wind Energy Technology. AIP Conference Proceedings, 1044(1), 340-359. Retrieved from World Wide Web;

Union Gas Limited. (2010). Chemical composition of natural gas. Retrieved from

Union of Concerned Scientists. (2010a). Energy trends. Retrieved from

Union of Concerned Scientists. (2010b). Senate Currently Proposing $40 Billion to More Than $140 Billion in Subsidies for Nuclear Industry, New Analysis Finds. Retrieved from

Union of Concerned Scientists. (2009). Coal vs Wind. Retrieved from

Urbina, I. (2010) No Survivors Found After West Virginia Mine Disaster. The New York Times. Retrieved from

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (1996). n-Pentane. Retrieved from

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). n-Butane. NIOSH pocket guide to chemical hazards. U.S. Government Printing Office. Washington, D.C.Retrieved from

U.S. Dept. of Energy (2008). 20% wind energy by 2030: Increasing wind energy’s contribution to u.s. electricity supply. U.S. Government Printing Office. Washington, D.C.

U.S. Department of Labor (2010)  Black lung benefts act,  Retrieved from

U.S. Dept. of State. (2010). Conspiracy theories and misinformation. Retrieved from

U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2008). Federal financial interventions and subsidies in energy markets. U.S. Government Printing Office. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from

U.S. Energy Information Administration (2010a). Existing net summer capacity by energy source and producer type. U.S. Government Printing Office. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from

U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2010b). Monthly energy review, Table 10.1. U.S. Government Printing Office. Washington, D.C.Retrieved from

U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2010c). International energy outlook-highlights. U.S. Government Printing Office. Washington, D.C.Retrieved from  

U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2010d). Electric Power Industry 2008: Year in Review, Electric Power Annual . U.S. Government Printing Office. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from

U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2010e). Overview. Electric Power Industry 2008: Year in Review, Electric Power Annual . U.S. Government Printing Office. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from    

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2009a). Sulfur Dioxide, Air Emissions Sources. Retrieved from

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2010). Sulfur Dioxide. Retrieved from

U.S. Office of Management and Budget and Federal agencies. (2009) Detailed information on the black lung benefits program assessment, Retrieved from

U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, (2008). Statement of the American Wind Energy Association “Energy Development on Public Lands and the Outer Continental Shelf” U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. U.S. Government Printing Office. Washington, D.C.  Retrieved from

US. Surgeon General. (2007) Second hand smoke is toxic and poisonous. The health consequences of involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke: a report of the surgeon general, u.s. department of health and human services.Washington, D.C. Retrieved from

West, H., & Sanders, T. (2003). Transparency and conspiracy: ethnographies of suspicion in the new world order. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Retrieved July 01, 2010, from World Wide Web;

White, S., Kulcinski, G. (2008) Energy Payback Ratios and CO2 Emissions Associated with the UWMAK-I and ARIES-RS DT-Fusion Power Plants. Madison, Wisconson:  Fusion Technology Institute, University of Wisconsin. Retrieved from World Wide Web;

Williams, C. (2010). No more renewable energy incentives! Do you agree? From Renewable Energy World. blog Retrieved from

Wiser, R., Bolinger, M., & Barbose, G. (2007). Using the federal production tax credit to build a durable market for wind power in the united states. (pp. 7-9). (Environmental Energy Technologies Division Report), Retrieved from

World Resources Institute. (2008, April). Renewable energy tax credits. The Bottom Line On…, (4), Retrieved from

Domestic Abuse

This post is from a short speech on domestic abuse. Following the speech is the content of the related handout.

"Grace"One in five of you women, and one in about 14 of you men, will be victims of domestic abuse. Domestic violence is not the only kind of abuse,  but you can’t avoid what you don’t know about.   Emotional and psychological abuse are two kinds.  Stalking, neglect, and financial abuse are also on that list. We are all responsible for where we place our trust.

It’s a shocking fact that 30% of male abusers in counseling are respected professionals. It’s also shocking that 34% of female murder victims over 15 years old are killed by their husbands, ex-husbands or boyfriends. A survey of local college students by the Health101 magazine found that 1/2 had already been in unhealthy relationships.

Domestic abuse often leads to depression.  Even though it feels like it, depression is NOT something you go through alone.  It is contagious, and worse, we teach it to our kids.  It’s SO contagious that we watched it spread across the whole region after Katrina.  We then watched it spread across the country with the economic crisis.  Almost 1 in 10 of you males,  and 1 in 5 of you females, will be diagnosed with depression.

Like it or not, we all have baggage that we tote around. I’m now a baggage handler.  I learned that ignorance allows abuse and depression to thrive and spread, but I also learned that I can start a wave of healing, and you can each help  by sharing this information with at least 3 people.


1 in 5 women, and 1 in 14.29 men will report being victims of domestic violence***
How many more won’t report it?

“Thirty-four percent of the women homicide victims over age 15 are killed by their husbands, ex-husbands or boyfriends.” (National Women Abuse Prevention Project)**

“Approximately one third of the men counseled for battering are professional men who are well respected in their jobs and in their communities. These have included doctors, physiologists, lawyers, ministers and business executives.” David Adams, “Identifying the Assaultive Husband in Court: You Be the Judge.” Boston Bar Journal, July/August, 1989.**

Collateral Damage

“Eighty-one percent of men who batter had fathers who abused their mothers.” (New Jersey Dept. of Community Affairs, Division on Women)**

“Children immersed in a culture of violence become insecure and lack an inner conscience that holds respect for others. They are easily discouraged and have low self-esteem. They live without hope. From such a life comes confusion, hostility and violence.” Roger Toogood, ASW/ACSW Executive Director, Children’s Home Society of Minnesota**

Links and Resources

National Domestic Violence Hotline: This is a nonprofit information, help & intervention resource for victims, and for those fearful that they may commit violence against others.
1.800.799.SAFE (7233) 1.800.787.3224 (TTY)  Anonymous & Confidential Help 24/7
and online at:
(If you are concerned that your computer use may be monitored the site suggests that you find a safe computer or use the toll-free telephone number.)

Unsure if you or someone you know is a victim or commits acts of domestic violence? Go to:
West’s Encyclopedia of American Law (Full Article) from

**From “Statistics On Domestic Violence: Silent Witness National Initiative” Silent Witness tracks domestic homicide and violence rates. Go to the “Home” page to light a candle or find projects and initiatives in your area.

***From “Spouse Abuse – PREVALENCE, THEORETICAL EXPLANATIONS” by Orsolya Magyar and  Richard J. Gelles  at
WHO stats on domestic violence by country with definitions and trends.

The Centers for Disease Control has an informative page on rates, symptoms and the physical health consequences of depression.

National Institute of Mental Health, Depression in Children and Adolescents

Health Reform Football Speech

A 6-minute persuasive speech for health reform (as presented). In the actual presentation I hit 6 minutes and 19 seconds.  The content is from a research essay..


Political football is one of the most popular spectator sports in the U.S. The game is played on a field that runs from right to left, terms that arose in the National Assembly of France of the late 1700’s where nobles sat to the right of the president while commoners sat to the left.

Where did the health reform football end up on that political field?

I. To understand how we fared in this game we need to know the rules.

A. There are two rules in the game.

1. The first is to maintain the free enterprise system of capitalism.
That requires that businesses, industry and banks remain privately
owned, and not owned by the government, or by the populace as they     would be under socialism.
2.  The second rule is that political power must be retained by the American people,  not by the elite, the wealthy, any specific group or faith, or even corporations, however they would seize that power,     including directly or through media or information control.

B. The two rules give us our two teams.

1. On your right you have those who protect our business economy, and
defend us against socialism and communism.

2. On your left you have those who protect our democratic republic and
individual freedoms by defending us against corporatism and fascism.

3. Both are needed.

II.  The three biggest and most recent plays in the health reform game were not presented by either team, but were actually first proposed by  The U.S. Government Accounting Office in a study of 1991.

A. They found that if the U.S. adopted the same kind of single payor and universal coverage as Canada,
we could have covered the uninsured
with enough left over to reduce or eliminate all copayments and deductibles.

B. They suggested that Congress look at “universal access”,  “a uniform payment system”, and expenditure controls.”

III. The first play in this game was the left‘s “uniform payment system” play for a single payor option, which would have had government take over the payment and claims management role now filled by a sector of private industry.

A.  In the face of a strong right defensive line approach to blocking health reform entirely  the left yielded the more socialist single payor ball, and rightly so.

IV. The left then attempted to bypass the right’s line of defense by passing
the ball in a “universal access” play for compulsory coverage.

A. It was intercepted by the right with the offer to yield on compulsory coverage only with a government subsidy of insurance premiums.

1. While funding private industry with taxpayer dollars borders on corporatism, it is not unlike a government contract award, except that it’s the individual who will choose which company gets those premiums.

B. The left consoled itself with the shift of some tax deductions from
big business to small businesses and individuals,  and in the fact that this bill leaves Medicare intact.

V. Once again in control of the ball the left ran for “expenditure controls”.

A. They succeeded with regulations on the insurance industry without cutting into medical services.

1. The most important of these regulations to us is that insurers now must provide coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.

2. The most valuable is a reduction in administrative and paperwork waste which now consumes almost a third of every health insurance dollar.

VI. The compulsory coverage and tax subsidy combo is a win for the right, but the new industry regulations are a win for the left that put the ball back in the middle of the field.

VII. On April 22 of this year, Solomon Mussey of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services looked at the data from The Congressional Budget Office.

A. He had this to say about reform.

1. He noted that this bill will prevent Medicare bankruptcy crisis
that, thanks to the mortgage and bank fiasco,  was now expected in only
7 years.

2. He also pointed out that the reform may result in even lower Medicare premiums and copays for the elderly and disabled, and lower out-of-pocket costs for everyone.

3. He concluded that this reform will lower the national deficit.

VII. On a more personal level, if you are uninsured you will get coverage, which will save 50,000 innocent American lives every year that the Mayo Clinic says die solely due to a lack of health insurance. Under any other circumstances, these numbers would be considered a genocide.


The final position of the health reform football appears to be very near the 50-yard line, and that makes this a piece of legislation worth keeping, even if you don’t like old people.

Health Reform Football

English research paper with assigned topic category of health reform. Short version (speech) :

The game of political football is one of the most popular spectator sports in the U.S., and those seeking to repeal or save health reform legislation are driving it into overtime. Political commentators like to describe the game in terms of  conservatives vs. liberals.  However, research on public opinion has shown that these are poor descriptions of the political leanings of individuals, who have views and opinions that may span or contradict either or both. (Swedlow p157-180)   The game may be enjoyed more if you first understand the field upon which it is played. The terms right-wing and left-wing originated in the National Assembly of France of the late 1700’s where nobles sat to the right of the president while commoners sat to the left. (  This remains the playing field upon which our political football games are played.  Understanding that the furthest right-wing form of government is known as fascism and the furthest left-wing form of government is known as communism should make it apparent that either extreme is not desirable in the U.S.  Both republics and democracies sit closer to the middle of this field where the power rests with the people either directly or through elected representatives.  While we can only hope for a game played out even closer to the middle of this more narrowly defined field, we know that there are winners and losers with the passage of any legislation.  Going into the final push to either implement or repeal health reform legislation the ultimate question may be where the health reform football is on the political field.

Political football itself is older than the U.S., and even the health reform game is not new. The U.S. Health Care Reform Interactive Timeline (NEJM) illustrates that even compulsory health insurance has been the topic of political debate since at least 1915.  The first compulsory health insurance bill was submitted by Congress in 1935.  The time line goes on to show that the health care reform baton has been carried forward by many presidents. Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter,  Clinton, Bush and Obama are noted on the time line for their support of health care reform through expanded access to services, expanded access to coverage or a national health care program, carrying the health reform football through a nearly century-long game in the U.S.

Unlike most spectator sports the power held by the people in the U.S. actually depends upon their ability to see the game, contribute to the dialogue, and hold their elected representatives accountable.   Sociologist Peter Phillips lamented, “ It is a terrible tragedy and disservice to U.S. democracy for our public to become the best entertained yet least informed citizenry in the world.” (Phillips)  U.S. citizens are at the mercy of the information they have with which to frame an opinion and competently exercise their power to advise their elected representatives.  The U.S. political game also depends upon everyone knowing the rules of the game, including the rule that the preservation of capitalism requires that businesses, industry and the capital itself remain in the private market, and not owned and controlled by the populace as it would be under socialism to the left or by the government as it would be under communism.  An equally important rule of the game is that the concentration of power must be retained by the people, lest the elite, the wealthy or even corporations seize power on the right.  Both sides must be equally well-informed and participatory in advising elected officials on specific legislation, a particularly difficult balance to maintain in the face of lobbying, campaign finance contributions and corporate media interests in the U.S. that naturally give the right a considerable advantage.

In order to understand the impact of poor public information in the context of the health reform debate we have only to look at a common misconception that health reform will create a shortage of doctors that we would not experience otherwise.  While it is true that it would add to the demand, the shortage was predicted years before due to an unrelated cause. In 2006, prior to the recent media circus surrounding health reform, the American Association of Medical Colleges acknowledged that enrollment and the subsequent supply of medical doctors had been intentionally suppressed, offering this explanation,
“In the 1980s and 1990s, workforce analysts and public policymakers, with few exceptions, predicted the United States would experience a substantial excess of physicians by the beginning of the 21st century. In light of these studies, the AAMC and other national organizations recommended steps to reduce physician supply in order to obviate the predicted surplus. Over the past two decades, enrollment at allopathic medical schools has been essentially flat… It is now evident that those predictions were in error… current trends will culminate in a shortage of physicians within the next few decades.”(AAMC)
The AAMC went on to make ten recommendations for addressing the shortfall, including  support for a Congressional bill to extend foreign medical student visas, and an overall 30% increase in enrollment by medical schools (over 2002 levels). While it was said that the shortfall could be addressed with  an increase in enrollment of 10,000 students per year, the enrollment increase proposal alone would meet only 4946 of that need.  In 2006 hearings were held regarding the passage of the foreign medical student program. Known as the “Physicians for Underserved Areas Act”, H.R. 4997, the bill allowed for the extension of medical school visas in order to allow new doctors to serve underserved rural areas in the U.S. prior to returning home.  At that time Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, TX,  quoted estimates from The Health Policy Institute that agreed with the AAMC figures, further clarifying by saying that
“… the United States needs to produce an extra 10,000 physicians per year over the next decade and a half in order to meet the demands of the country. This number assumes that the number of foreign educated physicians will remain constant.”(U.S.)
This bill was passed, providing yet another contribution to the goal of 10,000. These are just two of the steps that were taken to address the doctor shortage. The small bit of sensationalist journalism that brought the “doctor shortfall” already addressed in 2006 into the national health reform discussion of 2009/10 is just one example of the many ways that we are distracted from the real game even while corporate lobbyists remain focused.   As we can see from the doctor shortage example reliable information exists at this time for the public and for journalists, but only if we are ethically and responsibly selective, something we once took for granted from the sources of our news and information.

How did we come to this point where the general public in the U.S. can’t even watch the big game? As the authors explain in The Business of Media: Corporate Media and the Public Interest, (Croteau and Hoynes pp 13-32)  broadcasting and other media corporations use the market model to evaluate the quality of their service, in part  because it satisfies the profit concerns of shareholders, whereas the public perspective is a less familiar one that defines media information sources as central elements of a “healthy public sphere”.  The authors argue that it is in this “…public sphere–the ‘space’ within which ideas, opinions, and views freely circulate,” that the “…more elusive ‘public interest” provides us with “…the yardstick against which media changes are measured.” They go on to state that,
“In particular, it is widely recognized that a vibrant public sphere is essential to the operation of a healthy democracy. The media play a crucial role in helping to create such a vibrant public sphere…We need to pay attention to what it means for media to serve the public interest.”
The author of “Global Media”  (Campaign p20)   observed market finance shares and not audience shares to support a conclusion that disagrees with the idea that mainstream media is dominated by a few corporate interests, but concedes that,
“The Internet Has Leveled the Playing Field…Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one…These Internet-only “broadcasters” have not had to invest in government-sanctioned licenses and generally have no limits on their speech.”
The key words being “have no limits on their speech”. In other words, in the political sports arena,  the nightly news and other traditional resources may no longer be the most impartial places to follow the political game that is health reform, let alone any other legislation that could impact the balance of power between social and corporate interests.  What good does it serve for the power of a republic or democracy to be in the hands of the people if the public sphere of information is subject to neglect or manipulation and the public interest is not served?  It was  through the now-threatened net neutrality, free access and free speech on the Internet that this information about the health reform game came to you, so preserving them may be the best guardians of not only health reform, but journalistic integrity, diversity, and our very system of government.

The three biggest recent plays in the health reform game were first proposed by  The U.S. Government Accounting Office study of 1991 (GAO)  which found that if the U.S. adopted the same kind of single payor and universal coverage system as the one in Canada the savings would have been enough to cover the uninsured with enough remaining to either reduce or eliminate copayments and deductibles.  The study also pointed out that “Canadians have few problems with access to primary care services…more physicians per person” and  “Canadians use more physician services per person… Yet the cost…per person..was one-third less than in the United States.” On the down side it pointed out that “some specialty care services” had some limits that resulted in waiting lists for some non-emergency and elective surgeries and diagnostics for those in Canada, but “Emergency cases …are treated immediately, bypassing the waiting lists.”  With regard to payments the study pointed out that professional associations of physicians set regional reimbursement rates for their services, not the government, and that Canadian doctors were spending an average of 12% less on record-keeping and billing. Their malpractice insurance rates were also one-tenth what they were in the U.S.  The GAO ultimately determined that a reformed U.S. system should retain many of it’s strongest qualities including technological development, and should encourage new, more efficient systems of health care delivery.  In summary the GAO suggested that a reformed U.S. system would not
“…look exactly like the Canadian system…But particular elements are…worthy of consideration, including universal access, a uniform payment system, and expenditure controls.”

The “uniform payment system” play in health reform was widely cheered by the crowd on the left side of the field. This single payor option met with strong resistance from the right despite the GAO recommendation, while garnering support from groups like the 17,000 member strong and growing Physicians for a National Health Program, an organization of doctors that argues in Single-Payer National Health Insurance that,
“Under a single-payer system, all Americans would be covered for all medically necessary services, including: doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs. Patients would regain free choice of doctor and hospital, and doctors would regain autonomy over patient care.” (PNHP)
Despite this argument the right held fast in it’s commitment to protecting our free-enterprise system of capitalism. In the face of a strong right defensive line approach to blocking health reform entirely, The Institute for Health Policy Solutions (IHPS) had this to say about the issue in 2008,
“It is also counter-productive to hold the uninsured problem hostage to the growing health care cost crisis. Cost accountability is an elemental prerequisite to cost discipline. We cannot achieve cost accountability until and unless we replace our Byzantine labyrinth of cross-subsidies for the uninsured with direct coverage.” (IHPS)
This suggests that while Congress was aware that a single payer system was again strongly advised for a number of reasons they were unable to find a way to make it work while simultaneously protecting our business climate and they yielded to concerns on the right .

The left then attempted to bypass the right’s line of defense by passing the ball in “universal access” play.  It was intercepted by the right with the offer to yield on compulsory coverage if accompanied by a government subsidy of insurance premiums, a huge win for the insurance corporations on the right side of the field, and a win for other health care-related industries. Not to suffer long from the bitterness of defeat, the left consoled itself with the less substantial public funds redistribution that removes some tax deductions for insurance from big business and gives them to small businesses and individuals, increased regulations on the insurance industry, additional fees for pharmaceutical companies, and the potential for both foreign pharmaceutical competition and lower Medicare premiums and copays.  In correspondence on April 22, 2010, Solomon Mussey of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (Mussey) refers to data from their chief actuary and The Congressional Budget Office in referring to the health reform bill that was passed, pointing out that
“numerous provisions that will reduce Medicare costs and one…will increase the Hospital Insurance (HI) payroll tax rate by 0.9 percentage point for high-income individuals and families…the combination of lower Part A costs and higher tax revenues contributes to a lower Federal deficit based on budget accounting rules…Part B premiums will be reduced as a result of the fees imposed on manufacturers and importers of brand-name prescription drugs…savings…would result in lower beneficiary coinsurance payments for inpatient hospital and skilled nursing care.”
This correspondence describes and illustrates that health reform will bring about additional revenues (from certain corporations and individuals), may result in lower Medicare premiums, lower out-of-pocket costs for many consumers, and could lower the national deficit. While the compulsory coverage and tax subsidies play well into a financial win for insurers on the right side of the field, the overall benefits to consumers along with new  “expenditure controls” that regulate insurers and industry while having them and  the wealthy foot most of the bill gives the left a nice win to offset that of the right, thereby returning the ball to the middle of the political field in a classic bit of legislative tit-for-tat.

The general public refereeing the game will differ in their personal perspectives.  Those with investment income from retirement funds and more may find themselves subject to higher taxes, but may also enjoy lower Medicare premiums and copays, a generally elder-friendly outcome. Large employers may find themselves enjoying fewer tax breaks for providing employee coverage, so those with company-provided insurance may also find that their premiums increase.  Smaller employers on the other hand will enjoy more tax benefits for offering insurance to their employees.  Uninsured individuals including the unemployed and self-employed, will gain access to coverage and care even if they have pre-existing conditions . Many individuals, both currently insured and newly insured, may find their premiums paid in part or in full by the government out of the newly established revenues included in the reform.  Pharmaceutical costs could go up due to new fees, or down due to increased competition from imports. The national deficit is expected to go down, while medical technology and service sectors should see significant growth, thereby reducing unemployment. After all of the plays back and forth between corporate and populist interests in the political field, the final position of the health reform football appears to be somewhere near the 50-yard line, leaning right with the tax-funded subsidies to the insurance industry at the expense of the populace, and leaning left at the expense of some of the wealthy and big business interests outside the insurance sector.  The final result from the financial and power perspective of the insurance industry may remain to be seen, but in this game “Nothing is illegal if one hundred business men decide to do it.” (Nace 2)

Works Cited

Swedlow, Brendon. “Beyond Liberal and Conservative: Two-dimensional    Conceptions of Ideology and the Structure of Political Attitudes and Values.” Journal of Political Ideologies. 13.2 (Jun 2008): p157-180. Web. 26 Apr 2010
direct=true&db=a9h&AN=34478902&site=ehost-live> “right wing” The Oxford Essential Dictionary of the U.S. Military. 2001 Web. 26 Apr 2010

NEJM, “U.S. Health Care Reform Interactive Timeline.” The New England Journal of Medicine: Health Care Reform Center. Massachusetts Medical Society, 2009. Web. 24 Apr 2010.

Phillips , Peter. “The New Progressive Movement and Media Diversity.” The Putnam Pit .
Geoff  Davidian, 2000. Web. 24 Apr 2010.

AAMC, “AAMC Statement on the Physician Workforce.”
Association of American Medical Colleges (online). Association of American Medical Colleges, 2006. Web. 24 Apr 2010. <>

U.S.”27–608 PDF 2006  Physicians for Underserved Areas Act Hearing  Before the Subcommittee  on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims of the Committee on the Judiciary House of  Representatives One Hundred Ninth Congress Second Session On H.R. 4997.” U.S.
House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary. U.S.
House of Representatives Committee  on the Judiciary
, 2006. Web. 24 Apr 2010.

Croteau and.Hoynes, “The Business of Media: Corporate Media and the Public Interest,”
1st ed., CA, USA: Pine Forge Press, 2001. Print. pp. 13-32.

Campaign, Benjamin. “Global Media.” Foreign Policy,  Nov/Oct 2002.133 (2002): p20. Web. 26     Apr 2010.

GAO, . “Report to the Chairman, Committee of Government Operations, House of Representatives : Canadian Health Insurance,  Lessons for the United States.” U.S. Government Accountability Office.  The United States General Accounting Office, June 1991. Web. 25 Apr 2010.

PNHP. “Single-Payer National Health Insurance.”
Physicians for a National Health Program . Physicians for a National Health Program ,
2010. Web. 24 Apr 2010.

IHPS. “Coverage By and For All.” Institute for Health Policy Solutions.
Institute for Health Policy Research, July 21, 2008. Web. 24 Apr 2010.

Mussey, Solomon. “Estimated Effects of the ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,’ as     Amended, on the Year of Exhaustion for the Part A Trust Fund, Part B Premiums, and Part A and Part B Coinsurance Amounts.” The Hill. Capitol Hill Publishing Corp, 22 Apr 2010. Web. 25 Apr 2010.


Woolhandler and Himmelstein. “Paying For National Health Insurance–And Not Getting It.” Health Care Costs. Vol. 21, No. 4 (Jul/Aug 2002): pp1-11. Web . 26 Apr 2010.

Nace, Ted. “Gangs of America The Rise of Corporate Power and the Disabling of Democracy”. 1st ed.,. SF,CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2003. Print. p2.

Fascism Speech : Final Version

5-minute speech on fascism as presented. This worked out to 5minutes and 30 seconds, even though I missed some bits. The pauses must have made up the difference. I’m still working on the article with the links 🙂



We have all been hearing about fascism lately, so I researched it.
The full version will be on my blog.
Here’s the 5-minute version.

I. What fascism is not.

A. Fascism is not socialism.

1) Socialist aspects like public education, roads, and health services are integral to every major western first-world country, but in all of those countries, including the US,
these are counterbalanced by the rights of individuals, including those rights to own property and businesses.

B. Fascism is not communism or it’s more severe form, marxism.

1. Under communism the whole economy is controlled by the government with little or no private property.

C. The “single, revered leader” concept is no longer a requirement in the definition of fascism.

1. While the fascism of Germany substituted Hitler for the more traditional charming, dictatorial monarch, fascism has evolved, just as corporate organizational structures have.

II. Fascism history in a nut shell.

A. Fascism historically protects the economic power while engaging in crackdowns on demonstrators .

1. This was done in Europe, South America and Asia.

2. Fascist shifts occurred here in the US leading up to the Great Depression, and are happening now in several southern states.

B. We know that big money was behind and profited from the Holocaust and fascist Europe.

1. GE and The Koch family benefitted under fascist Europe, because under fascism corporations on the inside track enjoy less regulation, like what led to the mortgage crisis here under Bush,
and greater tax benefits like the bailouts under Obama.

2, GE and Exxon paid no taxes in the US in 2009.

3. Koch Industries has contracts for oil refinement, pipelines and asphalt, and now funds the Tea Party Movement.

III. Fascism exists today as fascist oligarchies.

A. Oligarchies, where economic power equates to political power are the norm these days.

IV. What is fascism?

A. In a fascist state, economic power controls government, and validates itself through propaganda and religion to establish a reactionary, violent, terrorist dictatorship that is pro-war, chauvinistic, pro-mainstream,
biased against immigrants, gays and minorities, the poor, and the homeless or more concisely, as Oxford English Dictionary puts it,
it is an extreme right-wing government.

B. Known as “The Big Lie”, fascist propaganda always starts by convincing the people that fascism is a left-wing, liberal concept.

V. Mussolini called it corporatism when he developed the 10 step blueprint to the hell that is fascism that continues to be followed today.

A. The first step is to create a terrifying enemy, both foreign and domestic.

B. Step two is to establish a separate prison system with torture.

C. Step three is to create a paramilitary force immune from prosecution.

D. Step four is to establish an internal surveillance system disguised as “national, or in Hitler’s words, homeland security”.

E. The fifth step begins with the harassment of peace, anti-war, environmental and pro-democracy citizens’ groups.

F. The sixth step is the Terrorist Watch List, and the use of arbitrary detention and release as a scare tactic.

G. The seventh step is to target key dissenting lawyers, artists and academics.

H. The eighth step to fascism involves control of the press.

I. The ninth step to fascism is the arrest of leftist activists.

J. In the tenth step to fascism military force is deployed on domestic soil.


Fascism is corporatism, it is right-wing, it is pro-mainstream religion, pro-religious law, anti-labor movement, anti-social program, anti-gay, anti-poor, anti-minority, anti-socialist, anti-democracy.

It is the extreme, radical form of a right wing government, just as marxist communism is and extreme, radical form of left wing government.

Edmund Burke, an 18th century British Statesman may have said it best when he said
“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an un-pitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”