Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Union of Concerned Scientists study GMO drought resistant corn

The document that I was reading last evening, released in June by the UCS, was at times causing me to laugh out loud, thinking about a soil bacteria DNA strand inserted into corn. The narrative will be easier to follow if you are a scientist yourself; but it is worth the effort for anyone interested. The whole text itself is about 21 pp. long-- with cover illustrations and references added on. The good news is that the outcome of the review is twofold. First, the seeds do not really perform all that great. Secondly, they are far more expensive for farmers, and the traditional methods of hybridization are so much more readily accomplished and quickly on the market that the USC suggests more study by Universities should be devoted to the more natural marital bliss of hybrid strains of resilient plants.

All of this over a bunch of  corporate nonsense that some people refer to nowadays as FrankenSeeds. ;->

Keeping hope alive that the labelling of GMOs becomes mandatory in California, with the issue on the ballot out there in November.

Monday, August 27, 2012

This is certainly the DRYEST EARTH in my lifetime!

No laughing matter
One day I actually looked up the word "drought' on google images out of wondering how the front yard happens to look like this. Yeah, this is what it is alright. Wet earth is usually expanded through some spongy areas where the water sinks in from intermittent rain. Now it is looking all cracked up, but this is no laughing matter, as the news is telling us.
(click under the picture for this video)

No one wants to have to think about whether the storms in the Gulf that delayed the Republican Convention for a day will blow further north and land a few showers over us. But I remember that happening in some times past. The weather man in the above video says we may have to wait for snow!

In Columbia one landowner is attempting to save a 350 year old tree by carrying water to it. Meanwhile we have been hearing about depleted aquifers and low rivers and streams. And the outlook is not good. You can visit the drought outlook map which pertains through the end of November this year here: National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration Graphic

To me, after the record temperatures since spring, this looks like climate change. What does it look like to you?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Public Service Commission Hearing in Mexico, MO

On Thursday one of my new GRO MO friends here called me in the morning to let me know that the place of the Public Service Commission (PSC) hearing had been changed to Presser Hall instead of the Courthouse basement. I found it online and saw that I could walk there easily.

Then I reviewed my notes and wrote my comments over again to take with me. Wow, it was hot when I left home-- must have been in the 90's and humid. But nary a real rain storm at all since I moved here.

When I found myself on the grounds of the local performance venue known as Presser Hall I could see people still arriving and walked across the grass to the front door. A young man from Fair Energy Rate Action Fund (FERAF) handed me a sticker to wear on my shirt. Then he pointed me to the sign-in sheet for speaking. The front hallway was busy with people, and as I entered the large theater I saw a  fair sized crowd scattered over the rows of seats, mostly toward the front. 

The person right ahead of me on the testimony list was Robin Acree, whom I had met before, so when I walked down to find a seat she waved at me, "Hi Pat!"  Fenny, who had called me that morning was right behind her with Robin's mom. We were glad to see that many people there. 

In a few minutes, about noon, the Public Service Commission staff, the Administrative Law Judge and the Ameren staff were introducing themselves. Also present was Public Counsel. the voice of the People, representing us. Robin asked him if he could explain how much his budget is now. It had been cut from $1,000,000 to $475,000, so she was admiring the work they do with a much smaller staff. The Ameren spokesman was presenting his case for the Corporation. One member of the staff of the PSC explained the process to us. 

Quite a few questions were asked to the Ameren representative, who seemed something like a sales person to me, but did his best to provide courteous guidance. And others in the room were able to respond as well. I kept wishing that many of those questions would be brought up in the actual sworn testimony, but I suppose some people were shy or hesitant for some reason to speak up in that way. 

When questions had been answered the audience members were all encouraged to testify as well, while one of the Commissioners and the Administrative Law Judge, Morris Woodruff, were then onstage to begin swearing in witnesses. 

So several people, mostly the elderly who are on limited incomes, came up to the microphone to be sworn in and to testify, the most important part of the proceedings.The witnesses showed a lot of courage describing their own circumstances or opinions.  

I knew that I would be following Robin, which helped me with confidence. And here is what I spoke out about, as close to accurate as I remember-- because I said I will read the note that I had written, but I interjected a couple of comments along the way.

My Comment to the Missouri Public Service Commission
RE: Ameren Rate Hike Request
August 23, 2012 Mexico, Missouri

As a longtime customer of Ameren who moved to Mexico about three months ago I oppose any rate increase at this time. Economic and environmental concerns are my main points. First of all the economy is still depressed and many of your customers are not yet working. Your most recent rate increase of 9% was granted in July 2011. With the heat of this summer your current income is certainly higher than average.

We actually pay more for electrical power than what is on our bills. Perhaps Ameren could review their business plans and consider how much they cost their customers and the government in health care expense and expense to the environment related to the burning of fossil fuels. Here in Mexico Ameren is using an oil turbine. Oil is also a fossil fuel. Most of the State of Missouri is running on coal. As a member of Sierra Club and friend of Beyond Coal and Labadie Environmental Organization I expect Ameren to publicly assert a plan to convert to sustainable energy. In Labadie, Missouri Ameren has ash pits on the Missouri River flood plain. It is really just plain ridiculous!

I think that a utility company should behave like a good citizen. Wind and solar are reliable businesses in this State and already up and running. Why would we want to continue to subsidize Ameren's income on our own backs while they cannot recognize that climate change is here right now?

Thank you for this opportunity to speak. 

I seemed to be the last witness, but fortunately anyone else who wanted to testify was invited, and one woman who spoke out is someone working for a nonprofit agency with the many folks who are often unable to pay their bills, depending on Dollar Help and other resources through her. She just told the Commissioner and Judge, after they asked her some direct questions, "Just say no. Just say not to Ameren about this rate hike." Wow, I was helped by hearing her statements!

Good citizens of Missouri, you can still testify to the Public Service Commission in writing! 
Comments will be open until the whole case is closed, and the next step is the formal evidentiary hearings in Jefferson City which will begin September 25, so you have at least that long to get your comments in.

 Here is an online form for submitting testimony.

Here is more information if you prefer to write your comments on paper and mail them in, and it gives some guidance on comments too.