Category Archives: Gov. Bredesen

Turning A New Leaf

[UPDATE]: Just in the nick of time, too.

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Sorry, the headline is lame, I’m still on my first cup of coffee (which is how most of my posts are written), but I find this very exciting news:

State officials hope to give a boost to electric car sales with a $2,500 incentive to early buyers of the Nissan Leaf in Tennessee via a program that could later be extended to buyers of other alternative fuel vehicles.

Gov. Phil Bredesen, speaking during a TVA conference on electric vehicles Wednesday, said the state plans to tap a petroleum escrow fund marked for energy projects to provide rebates of $2,500 to the first 1,000 buyers of the new Nissan Leaf electric car later this year.

“There’s no reason Tennessee can’t take the lead … in the development of electric vehicles,” the governor said. “We want their components to be made here and sold worldwide with a ‘Made in Tennessee’ label.”

The $2.5 million state program, which provides perks on purchases in addition to generous federal incentives to buyers of electric cars, makes Tennessee at least the second state with such extra benefits. California has a $5,000 incentive for buyers of all-electric, plug-in vehicles.

I might as well ‘fess up and let everyone know I’ve been on the waiting list for the Nissan Leaf for the past five months. I work from home so it’s perfect for someone like me: My driving is mostly around town doing errands, going to hockey and football games, shopping, etc. I have solar panels on my roof so I won’t have to feel too guilty about the electricity I’m using for fuel. And our garage is perfect for installation of a home charger. Mr. Beale already drives a Nissan but his car was getting some mileage on it. So we’ll trade it in for a Leaf, and we’ve got the hybrid if we need to drive further than 100 miles, which is maybe eight times a year.

Anyway, I’m excited about the new incentives. There’s so much right about this program, not the least of which is the fact that these cars are made right here in Tennessee. I love that I’m creating jobs for my neighbors and also helping the environment.

I know our state gets a bum rap for a lot of the silly stuff we do, but the Tennessee EV program is actually quite advanced. We’re actually way ahead of states like Vermont and Oregon and whatnot, states one usually assumes to be green and progressive. We’ll have a network of charging stations so I could, actually, drive my EV all around the state (and perhaps I will and blog about it):

Jonathan Read, CEO of San Francisco firm ECOtality, said Tennessee would be the first state to take the electric vehicle beyond the 100-mile range that is rapidly becoming the standard for all-electric mass-production vehicles like the forthcoming Nissan LEAF and Ford Focus Electric expected next year.

He said: “With these plans completed, the state of Tennessee will emerge as a leader in EV adoption, and serve as a critical blueprint for how best to connect major population areas with EV infrastructure.

“We are thankful for the input TVA and our partners in each city have provided throughout the planning process. We are taking a smart and strategic approach to the deployment of EV infrastructure so as to best create a connected, highly functional EV charging network,” added Mr Read.

Kim Greene, president of Strategy and External Relations at TVA, said there was a “groundswell of enthusiasm” already growing in the TVA area and the entire state as a result of The EV Project.

I’m just so proud of our state for being leaders in this critically important area. I’m proud of TVA and I’m proud of Gov. Bredesen.

And I’m worried. Just a teensy weensy bit worried. Because here’s the thing that’s so radical about EVs: no internal combustion engine! Wrap your head around that one for a minute. That means no tailpipe. That means no gas station stops — ever. No need for fill-ups. No need for oil changes. Nada.

The only reason you will ever need to stop at a gas station is to buy a soft drink. And think about how Mr. Haslam’s family makes its money: gas stations. So, if Bill Haslam is our next governor (and it’s looking likely) I do have a concern that he will self-servingly try to obstruct this program. It’s mostly a federal program and he can’t mess with it too much, I don’t think, and it looks like it may be too far along for him to screw it up even if he wanted to, but I think it’s a fair question.

Having seen the excellent documentary “Who Killed The Electric Car?” and seen how politics can destroy a pilot program (especially when the corporation behind it isn’t fully on board) I think my fears are justified.

In California, people literally were trying to hide their EV’s from GM. The auto maker went around and repossessed every car it could find when Bush’s EPA challenged the state’s air quality law which created the market for EVs. Eventually every EV was crushed. Stupidly, of course, but they did it. It was about politics, nothing more, and GM paid for its stupidity and short-sightedness. Let’s hope they learned a lesson because the EV ain’t dead, it’s alive and well and the wave of the future.

And I am just putting Nissan and Bill Haslam and the oil lobby on notice: not again. From my cold, dead hands, people.

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Filed under electric car, environment, Gov. Bredesen, Tennessee, TVA

>Show Your Papers, Tennessee

>Gov. Bredesen capitulated to whatever insane forces have taken root in this state and signed Tennessee’s version of an Arizona-style immigration law. Now those who look foreign better keep their papers handy. Yes, I said “look foreign” because we all know that’s who this law applies to. Not everyone, just certain ones. Foreign-looking and foreign-sounding ones. People with accents. Others. Not, of course, “us.” It applies to “them.”

And no I don’t buy that whole “this only applies to people sent to jail” nonsense. I imagine that’s what they said about the fugitive slave laws 160 years ago, too. Tell that to Juana Villegas. Anyone can find themselves booked or arrested on some ridiculous charge any old Boss Hogg or Barney Fife wants to trump up.

When stuff like the Arizona immigration bill comes up I always think of one very close friend of mine: blonde-haired and blue eyed and a perfect English speaker who, as it happens, is a native of Canada and lived and worked in this country illegally for over 15 years. She was, in fact, an illegal immigrant, but you wouldn’t know it to look at her, talk to her or even to examine her shoes. And you know damn well if she was ever pulled over by a Metro cop no one would think twice about asking her for proof of citizenship because she looks and sounds like anyone else trying to make it in Nashville, even down to the guitar in the back seat of her car.

Not so her husband, who is from South Asia and has very dark skin and whose English is excellent but nonetheless heavily accented. He does happen to be in the country legally (my friend is too, now; in fact she’s become a U.S. citizen) but getting his visa was a prolonged, expensive ordeal involving lawyers and long waits and lots of paperwork. My point is this: if you put them side by side, which one is going to have their citizenship questioned at a traffic stop? The blonde, blue-eyed, English speaker or the dark skinned, obvious foreigner who speaks with an accent?

I just think it’s hilarious that the only illegal immigrant I personally have ever known to be illegal is a white person.

The reality is, if you’re going to be in favor of laws like Arizona’s then you have to acknowledge that all sorts of people can be illegal immigrants, not just brown people, not just Mexican and Central American and other so-called “undesirables.” White people can and are here illegally too. If you are okay with white people being here illegally but not brown and yellow people, then you are a racist.

Alternately, you have to recognize that any “show us your papers” law designed to identify illegals and send them back across whatever border they came from has got to apply to everyone, regardless of what they look and sound like. Otherwise it’s not fair, or objective or impartial. Because if nothing else, we are told the law is impartial.

So that means we all need to carry proof of citizenship with us, every one of us, and we have to be okay with showing that paperwork to law enforcement when they ask. I thought we weren’t in favor of things like National ID cards and Soviet-style “show us your papers” laws here but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I misread the mood of the country.

Alternately we can go at this issue another way. We can address the root of the problem, which is that this country was founded on cheap labor and remains addicted to cheap labor.

Part of this, I think, is related to our energy crisis: because at its root, what is cheap labor but a form of cheap energy? Perhaps our next abundant cheap energy source to replace fossil fuels will bring about technological innovation and replace the human sweat and muscle picking our tomatoes.

Part of it is that we’ve become accustomed to not paying what things actually cost. We might think a Big Mac only costs $3.50 but that’s because we’ve socialized all sorts of costs associated with food production. When companies pay poverty wages for fast food workers or hire illegal immigrants to pick lettuce and tomatoes and work in the meat packing plant, then there are going to be social costs attached to that.

And then part of it is the grinding poverty and lack of opportunity in some parts of the world that has people seeking a better life here. One of the selling points of “free trade” agreements like NAFTA was that they were supposed to spur economic development in other parts of the world. But I’m wondering if that’s really happened? We have GM, Ford and Chrysler opening auto plants in Mexico, Maytag shuttering historic U.S. plants and moving production to Mexico, GE, Honeywell and other U.S. companies all opening factories in Mexico and Central America, heck the entire U.S. garment manufacturing industry is practically wiped out for textile factories in Honduras and Guatemala. So it’s a veritable beehive of manufacturing activity south of the border and I wonder why the hell hasn’t that “trickled down” to the communities down there? Why aren’t people staying in Mexico since that appears to be where all the jobs are?

So there are a whole lot of policy issues associated with immigration and not a damn one of them is addressed by any “show us your papers” laws. In fact, all these laws do is basically make a bunch of people feel good about being bigots and puts a target on the backs of those who are least able to fight back.

It’s stupid policy and it solves nothing.

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Filed under Gov. Bredesen, immigration, Tennessee politics

>Guns In Bars Vetoed

>You could knock me over with a feather:

Gov. Phil Bredesen has used his veto against HB962, which would allow handgun carry permit holders to carry their weapons into restaurants that serve alcohol.

In front of a backdrop of law enforcement officials from across the state, including Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas, Bredesen spoke of a firearms safety class he took in high school.

“I remember from the course there was one thing that teacher drove into us day in and day out … that message was guns and alcohol do not mix,” Bredesen said. “That was a common sense proposition back then, and it is every bit as true today.”

The bill would allow handgun carry permit holders to take their weapons into any restaurant that serves alcohol, unless the restaurant owner posted a sign banning the weapons from his or her business. Supporters have said the bill protects Tennesseans’ Second Amendment rights; opponents have said having guns in areas with alcohol could be unsafe.

“We cannot support legislation that openly allows consumption of alcohol where guns are present,” Serpas said. “Weapons in a bar fight are never a good thing.”

The veto can be overturned by the legislature with a simple majority vote.

Good move, governor. I didn’t think you would show that kind of spine.

If I were to make predictions, I’d say the legislature will overturn the veto. Fine, make ’em own it.

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Filed under Gov. Bredesen, gun control, Tennessee politics

>Obama Will Do What Bredesen Will Not

>Scrap Bush’s last-minute mountain-top mining rule, that is. From the Washington Independent:

“In its last weeks in office, the Bush Administration pushed through a rule that allows coal mine operators to dump mountaintop fill into streambeds if it’s found to be the cheapest and most convenient disposal option,” Salazar said in a statement. “We must responsibly develop our coal supplies to help us achieve energy independence, but we cannot do so without appropriately assessing the impact such development might have on local communities and natural habitat and the species it supports.”

Yet no one is under the delusion that the change will end the practice of mountaintop mining, in which companies blow apart the tops of mountains to reach the coal seams within, often pushing the soil, rock and debris into adjacent stream valleys. Mary Anne Hitt, deputy director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, issued a statement Monday applauding the administration’s move, but warning that much remains to be done to protect the ecosystems and communities near mining operations.

True, no one is under that delusion. Which is too bad. But this is a start.

I live for the day when we can rally at the state capitol and demand that our Governor, who purports to be a Democrat, ban this heinous practice in Tennessee. Bredesen has already said he won’t do so, citing the most BS reasons.

Mountaintop removal mining, unchecked by the government, amounts to a huge government subsidy of the coal industry. “Clean coal,” indeed. The price of this practice is never reflected in the cost, but the day will come when we have to pay the piper.

I live for the day when consumers such as myself can sufficiently express our distaste of the coal industry in our consumption choices. True, there’s the “Green Power Switch” (which I’ve done for a couple of years) and alternative energy sources — I have solar panels on my roof. But like it or not, I’m still consuming coal.

Coal consumption is built into the system. I have no way of living coal-free and if anyone wants to choose an alternative energy source, say solar panels on the roof or a windmill in their backyard, the costs are passed on to the consumer, while other technologies enjoy government subsidies.

It’s time to level the playing field.

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Filed under clean coal, environment, Gov. Bredesen, President Barack Obama

>Barack Obama Picks Gov. Sebelius For HHS

>So that means Gov. Bredesen is out for certain:

WASHINGTON, Feb 28 (Reuters) – President Barack Obama has decided to nominate Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to head the Department of Health and Human Services and will formally announce the decision at a White House ceremony on Monday, a U.S. official said on Saturday.

Whew, dodged that bullet.

I didn’t think Bredesen was a serious pick, considering the ill-will and bad press generated by his TennCare debacle. Glad to know it’s official, though.

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Filed under Gov. Bredesen, President Barack Obama

>You’ve Gotta Be Kidding Me

>Gov. Phil Bredesen for Health & Human Services Secretary???

This is a horrible idea. Bredesen will bring the same merde touch to the nation’s healthcare crisis that he brought to TennCare. Tens of thousands of people thrown off their healthcare, while the insurance companies get rich.

No. As God is my witness, no.

What could Obama possibly be thinking?

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Filed under Gov. Bredesen, healthcare, President Barack Obama

>Poisoned Rivers Thanks To ‘Clean’ Coal

>Hey, Gov. Bredesen! You might want to drop that handful of coal ash sludge.

The EPA has released its sludge test results and it ain’t pretty:

At one point in the Emory River, just downriver from the disaster site, arsenic levels in the water registered 149 times higher than the federal limit for safe drinking water. The same spot registered lead levels five times higher than normal, as well as unsafe levels of antimony, beryllium, cadmium and chromium, and elevated levels of a dozen other chemicals.

Although the TVA’s Web site boasts a prominent photo of Gov. Phil Bredesen handling a glob of sludge barehanded, experts are urging Tennesseans not to follow suit.

“We’re asking people to limit contact with the (coal) ash material, to wash their hands and clothing after coming in contact with it. Don’t let your children and animals play in the ash,” EPA spokeswoman Laura Niles said.

As the lightweight ash dries, it could become airborne and irritate the lungs and skin. The TVA is working on dust control as it searches for a more permanent solution.

[…]

So far, Kingston’s drinking water has tested safe. The intake for the city water system is upstream from the spill and has registered high levels of only one poison, thallium.

Thallium, of course, is a poison favored by mystery writers and KGB agents. And nothing has yet been released about possible radioactivity of any of this stuff.

I do have a question about all of this, which hasn’t really been addressed: If the Emory flows into the Clinch, and the Clinch flows into the Tennessee, and the Tennessee flows across the state, right through Bob Corker Country and then north into the Ohio, what are the chances that this poisonous stuff will spread its toxic load all across the state? And how many communities pull their water from this river system downstream? What are the risks associated with that?

Meanwhile, this seems to be yet another example of warnings ignored, and the feds shirking their responsibility to protect citizens. I guess they thought the free hand of the market would take care of everything for them.

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Filed under ash spill, clean coal, Gov. Bredesen, Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee, TVA

>Bredesen: "A National Wake-Up Call"

>Gov. Bredesen is touring the TVA ash spill site as I write. Some pertinent Tweets:

• TN Gov. Bredesen I guess this an epiphany for tva and the country…is that some things have got to change

• BREAKING: Gov. Bredesen says days of TVA’s self regulation are over. Calls TVA disaster a national wake up call

• BREAKING: Gov. Bredesen calls for review of state environmental regulations top to bottom following TVA coal ash spill.

This is all exactly what I’ve been waiting to hear. None of this nonsense from Lamar “no wind power” Alexander whose statement (“TVA should clean up this mess and clean it up quickly, and do everything possible to make sure it never happens again.”) was just this side of lame.

TVA is going to fix it, Senator Alexander. But it’s up to us to make sure this never happens again.

And Gov. Bredesen is right, this is a national wake-up call. Half of our electricity is generated by burning coal. Do you know where the coal waste in your community is stored? Do you know how it’s treated? Do you know if it’s radioactive?

You should.

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Filed under ash spill, clean coal, environment, Gov. Bredesen, Tennessee, TVA

>Energy Saved Is Energy Found

>This should be a no-brainer, but since conservation doesn’t fill Big Oil’s bank account, it’s no surprise that the Bush Administration has been dragging its feet. But the states aren’t waiting; look what Maryland did yesterday:

MARYLAND LEGISLATION TAPS ENERGY EFFICIENCY AS THE “FIRST FUEL”

Washington, D.C.—Maryland’s legislators gave final approval this week to two landmark energy bills that together aim to reduce the state’s energy consumption by 15% by 2015.  The legislation, proposed by Governor Martin O’Malley, sets the stage for Maryland to become a leader in capturing the benefits of energy efficiency.

“These two bills provide a foundation for a clean and sustainable energy future for the state of Maryland,” said Steven Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). “Maryland’s policies now recognize energy efficiency as the ‘first fuel’ for meeting its future energy needs.

A study released in February by ACEEE evaluated a suite of energy efficiency policies for Maryland and found that more than enough energy efficiency resources exist in the state to meet Governor O’Malley’s ambitious 15 by ’15 goal, and confirmed that reducing electricity consumption is the quickest, cheapest, and cleanest way for policymakers to bring consumer bills down and keep the lights on in the state.

OK, 15% doesn’t sound like much but it’s a great start.

Tennessee isn’t going to be left behind, either. I read that Tennessee’s House passed an energy conservation bill yesterday (though there’s been precious little information about this bill printed in the media). More to the point, Gov. Bredesen has called for a comprehensive state energy policy. This is something we desperately need, since the government is the largest energy consumer in the state, and apparently it’s an energy hog. State Senator Rosalind Kurita made an interesting revelation:

The Clarksville Democrat said she wants to be able to turn off the lights in her state office when she’s not there.

“It’s ridiculous that you cannot turn a light off in the Legislative Plaza. In our office the lights are on 24 hours a day. That defies logic, and we’re going to fix that.

“That is a wanton waste of energy.”

I did not know that you cannot turn a light off in Legislative Plaza. How absolutely insane! And while we’re doing energy audits, let’s get Metro on board, too.

People, this just makes sense. A kilowatt saved is a kilowatt earned. Energy efficiency is a “first fuel.” It’s time we all got on board this bandwagon.

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Filed under energy conservation, Gov. Bredesen, Tennessee government

>IOKIYAR, Local Edition

>Oh, hypocrisy thy name is Republican!

We all know that GOP moneybags Lee Beaman is financing the Oak Hill WATB’s fighting Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen’s “conservation hall” project. I wrote about it back in December, when it became apparent to anyone with half a brain that this was just another case of TN GOP partisan poo-flinging. This project has little relevance outside the wealthy and privileged neighborhood NIMBYs affected by construction noise, specifically blasting to build the underground facility. But let’s get real here: someone at the TN GOP has their eye on the governor’s seat, and thinks they can turn this into a statewide smear.

Personally, I just don’t think we’re that dumb here in Tennessee.

I hope.

Anyway, funny story: turns out Mr. Beaman dynamited when constructing his own house in nearby Forest Hills. Oh, snap! From the Nashville Scene:

It turns out that Lee Beaman, the zillionaire businessman who’s leading neighbors fighting “Bredesen’s Bunker” partly to prevent blasting for the gigantic underground banquet hall at the governor’s mansion, isn’t opposed to dynamiting at his own house. Beaman blasted away last year for the home he’s building in ritzy Forest Hills, but denies any hypocrisy.

“My concern with the governor’s project is not the blasting,” Beaman tells the Scene by cell phone from the ski slopes of Jackson Hole, Wyo., where he’s vacationing. “That doesn’t bother me at all. It’s the inappropriate use of taxpayer money. I’ve never taken issue with the blasting.”

Maybe not, but other of the governor’s Oak Hill neighbors, including Beaman’s wife Kelley, have made blasting one of their major complaints during raucous public meetings on the bunker—at times verging on the hysterical on that topic, in fact. Blasting is supposed to last two months in the otherwise quiet neighborhood, and contractors haven’t reassured anyone by promising to blow a horn whenever the dynamite’s fuse is about to be lighted, presumably so residents can cover their ears.

“I find it arrogant for you to come in one month before you are going to start blasting and say this is what we are going to do,” Kelley Beaman scolded state officials at one meeting.

One resident, Lorelee Gawaluck, fretted aloud that dynamiting might damage the tender young minds of neighborhood kids. “Are they going to send in a psychologist to tell us how to prepare our children?” she demanded to know.

Oh, get over yourselves. A psychologist? Yeah, just like Belmont University dispatched psychologists to help citizens cope during construction of the Curb Events Center–NOT!!!! (A project, I might add, named for and financed by another major GOP moneybags, Mike Curb).

Anyway, these Oak Hill people sound like the worst group of whiners. Try living in Green Hills for the past 10 years, where massive construction projects have sprouted on every corner. We’ve had plenty of blasting going on–one right next door to my house, thank you–and a lot of these Oak Hill folks got rich off of it. So now they’re worried about the blasting when it’s in their neighborhood? Oh, whaaah! Welcome to (pun intended) boomtown! They’ve been blasting around my street for years. We survived. So will you–your lots are at least five times as big as mine.

Grow up, already.

And as for the Beamans, who are happy to finance a smear of the Democratic governor while blasting away on their own residential construction project, no one buys your lame “think of the taxpayers!” screeching. The project will be financed by private donations. You know, like the kind you made to smear John Kerry’s war record.

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Filed under Gov. Bredesen, TNGOP