Tags: Sabato | 6-Democratic | Senate | Toss-ups | Chinas CO2 Emissions | Kyoto | compact fluorescent light bulbs

Larry Sabato Sees 6 Senate 'Toss-ups' for GOP

By    |   Sunday, 13 March 2011 04:01 PM

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Average Freshman Senator Worth $4 Million
2. China's CO2 Emissions Confirm Kyoto Critics' Fears
3. Sabato: 6 Democratic Senate Seats 'Toss-ups' in 2012
4. Expert: New Light Bulbs Bring 'Deadly Poison' Into Homes
5. Regional Nuclear War Could Reverse Global Warming
6. New 'Dust Bowl' Threatens Great Plains

1. Average Freshman Senator Worth $4 Million

Sixty percent of Senate freshmen and more than 40 percent of freshmen in the House are millionaires, compared to 1 percent for Americans at large, according to a new report from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The median estimated wealth for Senate freshmen is $3.96 million, topped by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, at $94.87 million. The median estimated wealth for House freshmen is $570,418.

"Even though millions of Americans continue to struggle financially, most of the nation's newest congressional representatives are a world away from such constituents' financial realities," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center

The figures are not precise because members of Congress are required to report their assets only in broad ranges. The Center, a nonpartisan research group, uses minimum and maximum asset values to arrive at an "estimated" figure.

Overall, freshman members of Congress have an estimated wealth of $533.1 million and a maximum net worth of $845.2 million.

Blumenthal, who married into a fortune, spent millions to defeat Republican Linda McMahon, herself a multimillionaire, in 2010's most expensive congressional campaign.

After Blumenthal, the next seven wealthiest freshmen in Congress are all House members and all Republicans. They are: Diane Lynn Black of Tennessee ($49.4 million), Rick Berg of North Dakota ($39.2 million), Blake Farenthold of Texas ($35.8), Scott Rigell of Virginia ($29.9), James Renacci of Ohio ($28.4), Steve Pearce of New Mexico ($23.2), and Richard Hanna of New York ($22.1).

At the other end of the scale, Rep. Joe Walsh, an Illinois Republican, has an estimated worth of minus-$317,498.

Other members of Congress whose minimum worth is less than zero: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah; and Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis.

Among all freshmen, "some are Democrats, some are Republicans, many are tea party conservatives while others are unabashedly liberal," said Dan Auble, manager of the Center's personal financial disclosure database. "What unites these freshmen is that, on balance, they're rich."

Editor's Note:

2. China's CO2 Emissions Confirm Kyoto Critics' Fears

Here's what worries American critics of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol: Any reduction in U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases could be outweighed by increases from China and other developing nations not required to cut their emissions.

A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency confirms those fears.

Carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, which is not a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol, actually declined by 6 percent in 2009, and are now 8 percent below 2000 levels, according to the EPA.

Global emissions, however, have risen more than 25 percent since 2000, and developing nations accounted for virtually all of the increase. China alone accounted for about half.

"A closer look at global emissions trends show how futile it would be for the U.S to impose economically punitive self-restrictions on carbon dioxide," James M. Taylor, senior fellow for environmental policy at The Heartland Institute, writes in Forbes magazine.

By 2009, China was the largest emitter, accounting for 24 percent of global emissions, while the United States was responsible for 17 percent. China will likely account for 26 percent when 2010 figures are released, with the U.S. contributing about 15 percent, according to Taylor.

China's emissions have been increasing by nearly 10 percent a year, and in 2010 probably surpassed the emissions of the entire Western Hemisphere.

"This means that even if the U.S. and the entire Western Hemisphere immediately and completely eliminated all carbon dioxide emissions, the growth in Chinese emissions alone would likely render this action moot within a decade," Taylor notes.

"China, moreover, has made it very clear it will not agree to carbon dioxide restrictions."

Reducing U.S. emissions by producing less power from fossil fuels would force consumers to rely on more expensive alternative sources such as wind and solar power, resulting in "very painful economic consequences," the Forbes article states.

Solar thermal power, for instance, will be 208 percent more expensive than natural gas by 2016, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates.

Taylor concludes: "Attempting to fight global warming by restricting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions is therefore both ineffective and painfully costly."

Editor's Note:

3. Sabato: 6 Democratic Senate Seats 'Toss-ups' in 2012

After losing Senate seats in 2010, Democrats likely face more of the same in next year's elections, according to political pundit Larry Sabato — who says six seats now held by Democrats will be up for grabs in 2012.

Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, acknowledges on his Crystal Ball website that it is "premature to issue hard projections" at this point, noting that "a thousand things will change along the way to November 2012." But he is willing to issue what he calls "descriptive short-term forecasts" for the Senate races.

Next year 23 Democratic seats will be up for election, as will 10 Republican seats. The six Democratic seats Sabato rates as "toss-ups" are held by Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), and Jim Webb (Va.). He also rates the seat held by Republican John Ensign of Nevada as a toss-up.

Bingaman, Webb, and Ensign are retiring.

Three other Democratic incumbents are stepping down. The seat now held by Kent Conrad of North Dakota is very likely to go a Republican, Sabato says, while Democrats will probably hold on to the seats being vacated by Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent Democrat.

Two other Republicans are also retiring, but odds favor the GOP retaining the seats now held by Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona.

"With six Democratic toss-ups to just one Republican toss-up, the GOP can obviously win the Senate in theory — but it is far too soon to say whether theory will become reality," Sabato observes.

He also forecasts that Florida Democrat Bill Nelson will be "vulnerable" in 2012, with a host of Republicans being cited as potential opponents.

"Without question, Florida Republicans would rather have former Gov. Jeb Bush as their nominee," Sabato adds, "but there are no signs that he is interested in the seat or a 2012 presidential run — as some national Republicans would like to see."

In governorships, he predicts that Republicans will increase their lead by up to three in the 2011 and 2012 elections.

Editor's Note:

4. Expert: New Light Bulbs Bring 'Deadly Poison' Into Homes

A lighting expert has told a Senate committee that the federal government is endangering Americans by promoting new kinds of light bulbs to replace ordinary incandescent bulbs.

The Energy Independence and Security Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007, requires that bulbs be about 25 percent more efficient by 2014.

The act serves as a "de facto ban on traditional incandescent light bulbs," said Howard Branston, who has overseen lighting projects including the Statue of Liberty and the Petronas Towers in Malaysia.

Testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, Branston said compact fluorescent light bulbs, the most popular alternative to incandescent bulbs, pose a risk to public health.

"The compact fluorescent lamp contains mercury," he said. "One gram of mercury will pollute a two-acre pond. This 2007 light bulb standard brings a deadly poison into every residence in the nation.

"We do not have enough knowledge of the potential consequences of being continuously exposed to the electromagnetic field that compact fluorescent lamps emit. There are millions of people in this country with lupus, an autoimmune disease. Exposure to low doses of light from these lamps causes a severe rash."

Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, said during the committee sessions: "Has anybody looked at the EPA recommendations put out in January 2011 about what you do if one of these mercury light bulbs breaks in your home? In Idaho, we've had a number of instances where they've had a mercury spill in a science laboratory and they immediately closed the school down.

"Can you imagine mercury bulbs throughout a school?"

Branston also warned about the use of LED (light-emitting diode) lamps, another alternative to incandescent bulbs, CNS News reported.

"The French have found that the output of these lamps is harming the vision of children," he said. "They contain arsenic and other poisonous materials. Why aren't we looking at that?"

He also asserted that the Energy Independence Act would cost jobs, burden businesses with the expense of updating lighting fixtures, and be an unnecessary government intrusion on Americans' ability to choose the bulbs they want.

Sen. Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican, is promoting a bill to repeal the 2007 law and give consumers the choice to buy any light bulbs they want. His bill has the support of 26 senators — all Republicans.

Editor's Note:

5. Regional Nuclear War Could Reverse Global Warming

Even a localized nuclear conflict could have a devastating effect on the earth's climate and reverse global warming for more than 10 years, according to a new report.

To assess the impact on the climate from a regional nuclear conflict — between, for example, India and Pakistan — scientists from NASA and other scientific institutions modeled a war involving 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs — just 0.03 percent of the world's current nuclear arsenal, National Geographic reports.

Fires resulting from the detonations would send about 5 million metric tons of black carbon into the lowest level of the Earth's atmosphere, the experts estimated.

According to NASA climate models, the carbon would absorb solar heat, leading to global cooling and "unprecedented climate change," said research physical scientist Luke Oman of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Following the nuclear exchanges, temperatures in the tropics, Europe, Asia, and Alaska would drop by up to 7.2 degrees F, the models predict.

Even after 10 years, average global temperature would still be nearly 1 degree cooler than before the nuclear war.

The climate change would also reduce precipitation by 10 percent globally for up to four years, and decreased precipitation would last more than seven years. It would also lead to a decrease in the earth's protective ozone layer, harming the environment and people, National Geographic noted.

"Examples similar to the crop failures and famines experienced following the Mount Tambora [Indonesia] eruption in 1815 could be widespread and last several years," Oman said.

That eruption led to the "year without a summer," a time of great famines in the Northern Hemisphere.

Oman added: "The main message from our work would be that even a regional nuclear conflict would have global consequences."

Editor's Note:

6. New 'Dust Bowl' Threatens Great Plains

For decades, the Ogallala Aquifer has provided the water needed to irrigate farms in America's semi-arid Great Plains. Now it is running dry — and that could have a devastating impact on food supplies around the world.

The aquifer is a vast underground lake that stretches from South Dakota to the Texas Panhandle and is thought to be the world's largest body of fresh water. It was formed between two million and six million years ago, when tectonic shifts trapped water below the surface. It does not replenish.

In the 1940s, after the Dust Bowl days, farmers and engineers began to dig wells to tap into the aquifer, turning dry plains into fertile farmland.

Since then, Americans have drained enough water to half-fill Lake Erie, according to David Brauer of the Ogallala Research Service, a U.S. Agriculture Department agency.

"The problem is that in a brief half-century, we have drawn the Ogallala level down from an average of 240 feet to about 80 feet," he told The Telegraph.

The U.K. newspaper looked at one town in the Texas Panhandle, Happy, where the water has run out, businesses have been shuttered, and the population has plunged.

The farms in the area have been turned over to the government's Conservation Reserve Program, to lie fallow, in exchange for grants.

"Now Happy is the harbinger of a potential Dust Bowl unseen in America since the Great Depression," the Telegraph observes.

The Great Plains account for 20 percent of U.S. grain and corn production, and a plunge in production there could lead to "starvation in Africa and anywhere else where a meal depends on cheap American exports," according to the Telegraph.

The hope is that with less wasteful irrigation and seeds genetically engineered for drought conditions, farming may continue in the Plains for another 60 years.

Otherwise, the report warns, "the dust will start blowing in as few as 10 years."

Editor's Note:

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Insider ReportHeadlines (Scroll down for complete stories):1. Average Freshman Senator Worth $4 Million 2. China's CO2 Emissions Confirm Kyoto Critics' Fears 3. Sabato: 6 Democratic Senate Seats 'Toss-ups' in 2012 4. Expert: New Light Bulbs Bring 'Deadly Poison' Into...
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Sunday, 13 March 2011 04:01 PM
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