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Kennedy’s Death Leaves Environmental Gap in Senate; Chamber of Commerce Wants Climate Change Trial; and More
Tuesday, 01 September 2009 00:00  |  Written by Justin Pot | Blog Entry

Senator Edward Kennedy photo courtesy of US CongressHow the mainstream media is covering environmental news this week: Senator Ted Kennedy's death leaves the nation in mourning and also leaves the Senate with one fewer vote for the climate-change bill. The US Chamber of Commerce wants the EPA to host a “Scopes Monkey Trial” of climate change. Also, Brazilian farmers are offered money not to cut down rainforests and Japan tries to hold its lead in solar-power development while China's solar output continues to grow.

Kennedy's Death Leaves Climate Change Legislation at Risk
American headlines were dominated this week by the death of longtime Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, who served in the Senate as a Democrat since 1962. His lifelong passion for healthcare reform led to a number of stories asking if his death might derail the reform; Massachusetts law requires the Senate seat be empty until an election can be held in January 2010, well after any votes on the healthcare issue. Kennedy himself, before passing, asked the Massachusetts legislature to change the secession law to allow an interim Senator to be appointed, in part so the Senate would not lose a key vote on healthcare.

However, the empty Kennedy seat also has implications for the environment; he was a key supporter of the climate-change bill about to come up for a vote in the Senate. UK newspaper The Guardian points out that the bill “needs every vote it can get,” and that a replacement Senator taking the seat in January would be too late to help the bill.

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Take 'Em to Court
Sure, climate scientists have largely reached a consensus on climate change, but America's Chamber of Commerce wants the flawless scientific opinion only a court of law can provide. The Los Angeles Times reports that chamber representatives are pushing the EPA to hold a public hearing on climate change, and that these chamber representatives are actually referring to the case as the Scopes Monkey Trial of the 20th century.

If the EPA refuses to hold the hearing, the Chamber says it will take its case to the federal courts. This is all intended to undercut the scientific basis of carbon output causing global warming. Or, in other words, these businessmen are actively seeking a Colbert Report-styled second opinion on climate change

Forest or Family?
Save a block of rainforest or feed your family—it's not a choice many North Americans make on a regular basis. The New York Times tells the story of a Brazilian farmer facing just that choice, and highlights efforts to pay such farmers a yearly stipend provided they don't cut the trees down.

The Ongoing Solar Arms Race
Japan used to make half the world's solar panels, according to an article in this week's Economist, but is losing significant ground to upstarts in countries across Asia—particularly China and Taiwan. The article says that to avoid losing the solar market the way they did the TV and computer-chip market, Japan is focusing on innovation and tie-ins with various Western corporations.

In China, meanwhile, solar output continues to increase. The New York Times points out that China has exceeded America in solar-panel production—this despite Obama's wish for America to become the leading exporter of renewable energy. The article points out that prices of solar panels have been pushed down by almost half in the past year, largely because of Chinese production.

China's secret? Among other things, college graduates with degrees in engineering make only $7,000 a year there.

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