Patt Morrison for January 13, 2011

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Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced this morning that the city has met its goal of providing 20 percent of the city's power from renewable sources in 2010. That’s largely due to the municipally owned Pine Tree Wind Power Plant in the Tehachapi Mountains, which the Department of Water and Power opened in 2009 and which by the end of 2010 accounted for half of the utility's renewable energy. How did the city account for the other half? And how did Los Angeles manage to reach 20% without granting the DWP the rate increase it said it required last year to meet this goal? Patt checks in for a breakdown of the numbers and an update on whether Los Angeles is on track to meet its next goal of providing all of the city’s power from renewable resources by 2020.
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It started with tidal power, the idea of slapping several huge generators on the floor of the San Francisco Bay that would capture the massive energy of the tides as they flowed into and out of the bay. When that grand scheme became too expensive and too inefficient to prove sustainable, a much simpler idea was considered: what about wave power? The freshly inaugurated Lieutenant Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, will make green energy the focus of his term and one specific idea that is already in practice in San Francisco is wave power. Instead of building equipment on the sea floor, wave power uses a system of buoys and power cables that employs the constant wave motion of the ocean to drive a set of pistons. The result could be power that is more affordable to produce than solar energy and from a reliable source. There’s a ton of work to be done but several European countries already have wave power farms in operation—could California be next?
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We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess

Living in the land of the free can come with a price – each year, close to a million American lives are lost due to, no, not car accidents or disease, but behaviors like over-eating, smoking, and drug and alcohol consumption. That amounts to half of all the deaths in this country annually. In other words, we are our own worst enemies. In, We Have Met the Enemy, journalist and author Daniel Akst explores the importance of and battle toward moderation in an age and country in which nearly any desire is instantly at our fingertips. Patt sits down with Akst to discuss his book and thoughts on why moderation can be such a challenge.
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The great (unknown) global food crisis of 2011

Food riots are spreading across Algeria; Russia is importing grain to sustain its cattle herds; the price of wheat is at an all-time high in the United Kingdom; China is starting to import food, worrying about food shortages; the Mexican government is worried about corn shortages to make the country’s staple tortillas. There is a bona fide global food crisis underway, not that most American would know about it. A strange combination of botched crops, water shortages, and economic and population pressures have conspired to drive basic food staples, wheat, grain and corn, to record high prices with potentially significant and lasting consequences. While the rest of the world looks nervously at food supplies, American companies are reaping the benefits, as commodities exporter Cargill reported a tripling of its net profits. You might not know it yet, but 2011 could be the year of a global food crisis—will it impact you?
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The new governor of Rhode Island, independent Lincoln Chafee, apparently has had a less-than-cordial relationship with many of the state’s conservative-leaning talk radio stations. His answer to those strained relationships was to avoid the medium altogether—earlier this week Chafee said he will not be conducting any interviews on talk radio programs and he intends to ban state employees from spending their state work time talking on talk radio. While he’s backed off that stance somewhat, allowing state employees outside of his office to go on talk radio as they see fit, he is steadfast in his feelings on talk radio. Asked Wednesday if he personally believed that talk radio was corrosive to the political process to the extent that it thrives on divisiveness, Chafee said: “Perhaps, to an extent ... at least that is my opinion.” At the very least, he said, “it’s more entertainment than journalism.” In the aftermath of the shootings in Arizona, when American political discourse has been put on trial, Chafee’s stance against “divisive” talk radio carries added symbolism. Should elected officials avoid talk radio program to elevate civil discourse, or is the talk radio medium the last forum for real political debate?
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In the movie trilogy Lord of the Rings, the Ents (J.R.R. Tolkien's imagined tree-like creatures) rise up from their roots to take part in a great battle against evil, after many of their brethren are chopped down. Unfortunately for a grove of trees in Arcadia, none of them showed the ability to stand up and walk away, so more than 200 oak and sycamore trees were cut down yesterday amid protests and controversy. The grove was cleared by L.A. County Public Works as part of a flood control project—where the trees once stood will go 500,000 cubic yards of silt, rocks, and vegetation scooped out of the Santa Anita reservoir. The County Board of Supervisors stopped earlier plans to chop down the grove with hope for finding a solution that would spare the trees, but no compromise was reached, and the chainsaws fired up yesterday, while protesters did all they could to stop the chopping. When conservationism clashes with public planning, in this case maintenance of a vital reservoir, who should win?
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