Politics


Marijuana TrendThe latest Public Policy Polling poll of Colorado, released on October 25, shows that Coloradans support Amendment 64 by a 10-point margin and that support is trending upward.

According to PPP:

Colorado’s amendment to legalize marijuana continues to lead for passage with 53% of voters saying they plan to support it to 43% who are opposed. This plays out very much as a generational issue with voters under 30 favoring it 73/25, while seniors oppose it 38/55. Every age group except seniors supports the amendment, and it has a 58/36 advantage with independents.

This is 4-point increase from PPP’s previous (September 4) poll, which showed 47% in favor and 43% opposed. This is also an increase from the October 11 Denver Post /Survey USA poll which showed 48% in favor of Amendment 64 and 43% opposed.

Amendment 64 seeks to legalize the possession, use, cultivation, and manufacture of small amounts of marijuana and goods containing marijuana. It will create the legal framework necessary to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. The Amendment states that the first $40 million in annual tax revenue will be earmarked for public school construction. More information on the Amendment, as well as the full text and ballot language, can be found on the  Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol website.

While the numbers from the latest PPP survey may appear favorable to supporters of the Amendment, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol cautions supporters against becoming complacent. A similar measure in California, Proposition 19, led in polls until late September before the 2010 election, but was defeated 53.5% to 46.5% on election day.

Post-election analysis of Proposition 19 in California determined that the measure was probably defeated due to late-in-the-game opposition from prominent public figures in California. This is a concern for supporters of Amendment 64 in Colorado as well; Governor Hickenlooper and Denver’s Mayor Hancock, as well as several interest groups, oppose the Amendment.

On the other hand, Amendment 64 has advantages that California’s Proposition 19 did not. Many local law enforcement professionals and doctors, as well as the Colorado Democratic Party, have voiced their support for the measure.

Those in favor of Amendment 64 have a significant fundraising advantage. The Denver Post reports that over $3 million has been spent so far by groups on both sides of the issue. Groups that favor legalization are out-spending opposition groups by a 4-1 margin. However, spending by groups in favor of Proposition 19 in California was also significantly higher than spending by groups opposed, so a fundraising edge for Amendment 64 does not necessarily indicate that it will pass.

Finally, the October 25 PPP poll suggests that support for Amendment 64 is currently at its highest level yet and is trending upward. For comparison, polling for California’s Proposition 19 showed support peaking in late September 2010 and trending downward until the measure’s defeat on election day.

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People who have lived in Colorado their entire lives, such as myself, often take the water resources of this state for granted. We water our lawns at noon, run the tap while we’re waiting for the water to cool down or while we’re brushing our teeth, and generally take all the fresh water we use for granted (and I’m sure Coloradans aren’t the only ones).

Does it strike anyone else as wrong that we use potable water to flush our toilets? To water our lawns? I don’t mean to sound (too) patronizing, because I’m just as guilty of these things as nearly every other American, but we are all incredibly privileged and most of us don’t even realize it (myself included).

Why don’t we do something about this, like use gray water to water our lawns and flush our toilets? I suspect there are two reasons. First, we just don’t really think about it a lot of the time. It’s just how it is, and we take the status quo for granted. Second, it really would take an extraordinary amount of infrastructure (re)development to re-route gray water from your shower drain to your toilet. Right now, we just don’t have the infrastructure or the will to do it.

It will probably take a significant water crisis, maybe on an order of magnitude similar to the Dust Bowl, to convince us that it’s silly to keep wasting all this fresh water.

Speaking of the Dust Bowl, I live on the east side of the Rocky Mountains, which means I also live on the east side of the Continental Divide. In Colorado, 80% of our rain falls on the west side of the Continental Divide, and only 20% on the east side. So, a significant amount more water flows down the west side of the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean than down the east side of the Rockies, to the Atlantic.

But eastern Colorado is where the vast majority of the farming in Colorado is done, because that’s where all those “fruited plains” are. In the early stages of Colorado’s settlement this wasn’t a problem, but during the Dust Bowl, farmers east of the Continental Divide (not just in Colorado) began to covet all that wonderful fresh water out west that they couldn’t use.

So began a little public works project called the Colorado-Big Thompson Project (C-BT). It was authorized in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and completed almost 20 years later. Upon completion, the project supplied fresh water to 33 cities, including Fort Collins, Boulder, Greeley, Loveland, and Estes Park, as well as farming in 7 Colorado counties. It includes 10 reservoirs, 18 dams and dykes, six hydroelectric power plants, and the Alva B. Adams tunnel.

The technical skill and perseverance required to build the entire C-BT project, and the Alva B. Adams tunnel in particular, continues to astonish me (remember, this was 70 years ago). The tunnel is 13 miles long and goes all the way under the Continental Divide and Rocky Mountain National Park. It was built from 1940 to 1944, in the middle of a world war. Much of the impetus for its construction was the hardship suffered by Americans, farmers in particular, during the Dust Bowl.

If this astonishingly hot, dry summer (and a little report from the UN) are any indication, Climate Change is here to stay. Ignoring it will not make it go away, despite what certain politicians seem to believe. Colorado, as well as much of America’s farmland, has faced drought conditions every summer for the past several years, and we desperately need to save as much clean water as we can for its best possible uses. (I’ll give you a hint – it’s not to flush your toilet.)

We need another large-scale water project. This time not to build dams, reservoirs, and tunnels, but to make more efficient use of the water we have. The Federal government can’t even find the political will necessary to pass a budget without shutting down the government, let alone undertake the massive infrastructure investment that would be required to mitigate another Dust-Bowl-like drought. We need that kind of investment to do things like re-route gray water from our shower and sink drains to our toilet bowls and lawns.

I’m afraid we might end up waiting for another Dust Bowl before we do what’s necessary.

This post was inspired in part by my newly begun master’s studies in Agricultural and Resource Economics, where I recently took a tour of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (NCWCD) headquarters. The NCWCD is responsible for administering the water resources for northeastern Colorado, including the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. 

I just listened to my brother, Jens Lund Snee, interview Stanford Professor Michael Wara, a climate scientist-turned-legal scholar, for Standford’s Generation Anthropocene podcast. See below for Michael’s and Jens’ backgrounds, and for notable quotes from the interview.

Click the link below to listen to the full interview.

Michael Wara Interview

 

Contributor

Michael Wara
An expert on energy and environmental law, Michael Wara’s research focuses on climate and electricity policy. Professor Wara’s current scholarship lies at the intersection between environmental law, energy law, international relations, atmospheric science, and technology policy.  Professor Wara was formerly a geochemist and climate scientist and has published work on the history of the El Niño/La Niña system and its response to changing climates, especially those warmer than today. The results of his scientific research have been published in premier scientific journals, including Science and Nature.

 

Interviewer

Jens-Erik Lund Snee
Jens-Erik Lund Snee is a Masters student at Stanford University studying Geology and Environmental Sciences. He is interested in ways that scientific knowledge can better inform policy, particularly with regard to international natural resources issues. He spent 2011 on a Fulbright Fellowship studying geology and politics in New Zealand.

 

Quotes:

“The industries that were gonna be regulated played what I think is a disproportionately important roll in driving the design of the law” 

“I try to come at the problem from a sort-of fact-based, data-driven… approach, and that isn’t really how things play out in Washington.”

“You don’t see to many ideas that really die in the policy arena, unfortunately, even if there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that they aren’t terribly effective.”

“That person ends up sitting – giving expert testimony to lawmakers – pretending as if – pretending that – this was their idea; that this has nothing to do with a financial arrangement that has been made behind the scenes and I find that – I think that, in particular, gives you some clue as to why ideas, good or bad, don’t die in the policy arena.” (apx 16:00)

“If there was one thing I wish we would try more of, it’s smaller-scale agreements, where we actually do things. Where we experiment with reducing emissions of a particular gas, from a particular industry, and then we learn about how well we can implement those kinds of programs; how much they actually cost, not how much industry and environmental groups say they’re going to cost. And we also learn about our partners in the international negotiation, how much we can trust them, how well they can actually implement agreements that they sign on to.” (18:00)

“I think that, if we could have more sort-of small-scale steps, we could actually get a lot further than we have been by trying to craft this giant kind of global, once-and-for-all agreement.” (20:00) 

“We see environmental problems being resolved by regulatory approaches that change behavior, change incentives, and we also see environmental problems being resolved by innovation; but sometimes the innovation is stimulated by the regulation.” (21:00) 

“Energy research and development investment in this country is pathetic… We need some basic innovation if we’re going to really change the picture on climate.” (22:00)

 

Obama, Romney looking angry

Image Credit: Associated Press

According to the poll released yesterday by Fox News, President Obama is currently leading challenger Mitt Romney by a 9-point margin. The poll shows Obama taking 49 percent of the vote, while Romney would only take 40 percent if the election were held today.

 

This is a significant increase from Fox News’ June horse-race poll, which showed Obama at 45 percent and Romney at 41 percent.

 

Obama’s advantage in this latest poll is mostly a result of increased support from independent voters, who now favor him over Romney by an 11-point margin. 30 percent of independents remain undecided.

 

54 percent of those polled said that they had a favorable view of the candidate, his highest favorability rating in this poll in over a year. According to the poll, this is nearly as high as the 59 percent approval rating reported shortly after the 2008 election.

 

CNN’s Thursday presidential poll has also shown strong support for the president, with 52 percent of registered voters indicating that they would choose President Obama, while 45 percent said they would vote for Romney if the election were held today.

 

The CNN poll also showed that Obama’s approval rating is staying relatively constant at 50 percent. 47 percent of those polled disapproved of the President’s job performance.

 

56 percent of respondents had a favorable view of the President in the CNN poll, while only 42 percent were unfavorable. These numbers did not look as good for Romney, who had a 47 percent favorability rating and a 48 percent unfavorable rating.

 

These poll results seem to indicate that the President is making inroads with independent voters. The percentage of voters that would pick Obama over Romney has steadily increased over the last month.

 

RealClearPolitics now shows an Obama lead of 4.4 points in its polling average. This estimate includes the CNN and Fox polls.

The FiveThirtyEight estimate is now showing that Obama has a 73.3 percent chance of winning the general election, up significantly from a month ago.

Support for Amendment 64, Legalizing Marijuana, in the August 8 Public Policy Poll

Colorado support for Amendment 64 compared to general support for legalizing marijuana.

According to today’s Public Policy Poll of Colorado, support for Amendment 64 has grown since the June poll. The amendment, which will be on the Colorado ballot in November, proposes to legalize and regulate growth, possession, and usage of marijuana.

Support has grown by five points to 47-38 from 46-42 in June this year. Independents now support the amendment 58-28, up thirty points from support of 49-40 in June. Democrats favor it 59-22 while Republicans support it 26-61.

15% of voters are undecided on Amendment 64, up from 12% in the June poll.

The poll also posed a more general question, asking whether marijuana should be legal or illegal. Respondents were somewhat more in favor in this situation, supporting legalization 50-42 with 8% undecided. That’s a 2-point increase from June, when respondents supported legalization 49-43.

Support for Amendment 64 and legalized marijuana by political affiliation.

Support for Amendment 64 and legalized marijuana by political affiliation.

The 5-point swing in favor of legalization suggests that Colorado voters are becoming more comfortable with the idea of legalizing marijuana and taxing it in a manner similar to alcohol. This could be a result of the recent pro-legalization ad campaign.

It’s also possible that a lot of this change is a result of statistical noise. The margin of error on both polls was +/-3.5%, so much of the shift could be accounted for by sampling error.

However, the 30-point shift in independent support for the amendment is suggestive. The margin of error for independents is larger than for the overall poll, due to the lower number of independents, but a shift of this magnitude likely represents increasing support in this group.

In addition, little has been heard from groups opposed to Amendment 64. The group Smart Colorado, founded by Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, opposes the amendment but has only raised $16,000 as of the latest update.

Groups in favor of Amendment 64, including the Colorado Democratic Party and the state medical marijuana industry, have raised well over $2 million.

It is still early. The election is still three months away, and the outcome can easily change during that time. California’s latest legalization attempt, Proposition 19, was leading in polls until late September 2010. It was defeated in the 2010 midterm elections 53.5% to 46.5%.

If support for Amendment 64 continues to grow, it may become law in November. But supporters of the amendment will need to be wary of a co-ordinated opposition by special interest groups. Such opposition has defeated similar measures in Colorado and California in the past.

I admit I’m a little behind the curve on this one, but it was just too ridiculous to pass up.

 

Wind Turbine, Tower in a Corn Field

Image Credit: Sebastian Celis via Creative Commons

Last week, Governor Romney’s presidential campaign announced in Iowa that if he is elected president, he will allow the Production Tax Credit (referred to below as the “wind credit”) to expire.

According to The Des Moines Register,

Shawn McCoy, a spokesman for Romney’s Iowa campaign, told The Des Moines Register, “He will allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits.”

It the Romney campaign actually wanted to get rid of all energy subsidies, I’d be 100 percent for it because energy subsidies create market distortions. But of course the Romney campaign continues to support oil subsidies; because of course they don’t create an uneven playing field.

Besides, if Romney wanted to do away with oil subsidies, you can bet the Koch brothers et. al. wouldn’t be bankrolling his campaign anymore.

That aside, Romney really needs to work on his swing-state strategy. Iowa has more wind energy jobs than any other state, and Iowa Republicans were quick to point out just how misguided his notion was.

As Republican Rep. Tom Latham pointed out, this proposal demonstrates “a lack of full understanding of how important the wind energy tax credit is for Iowa and our nation.”

This isn’t just turning heads in Iowa, either. Green energy jobs are so important here in Colorado that only one Republican representative, Doug Lamborn, supported Romney’s notion. Even Birther lunatic Rep. Mike “Obama’s not an American” Coffman opposed Romney’s proposal. (This clown is my representative, sadly.)

Lest we forget, the wind energy tax credit was originally signed by George H. W. Bush in 1992 and renewed in 2005 by a Republican Congress and signed by George W. Bush.

The bottom line is Romney’s wacky proposal to do away with the PTC and the wind energy tax credit is so ridiculously off-the-wall that even his own party is disavowing his statements.

I seriously doubt Romney ever expected this to be good policy. He’s just doing the pandering he needs to do to appease the Tea Party and his oil billionaire donors.

He never needed Colorado and Iowa’s 15 electoral votes, anyway.

Update: As of 1:20PM ET, the well-cited “Controvercies” section has been restored to Sen. Portman’s page – see revision history.

There’s an interesting article on NPR.org today titled “One Clue To Romney’s Veep Pick: Whose Page Is Getting The Most Edits?

In the article, NPR notes,

In 2008, as The Washington Post wrote at the time, “just hours before [Sen. John] McCain declared his veep choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, her Wiki page saw a flurry of activity, with editors adding details about her approval rating and husband’s employment. … Palin’s entry was updated at least 68 times, with at least an additional 54 changes made to her entry over the preceding five days.”

Meanwhile, the Post said, “on Aug. 22, the day before the Obama campaign officially named [then-Sen. Joe] Biden as the veep pick, Biden’s Wiki page garnered roughly 40 changes. Over the five days prior, users would make at least 111 other changes to his entry.”

As of 10 AM Eastern Time, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio was leading in Wikipedia edits. He has racked up 16 edits so far today, while the Wiki page of the next closest, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, has been edited nine times so far today.

It is also important to note that these revisions may not necessarily indicate that Senator Portman’s page is being cleaned up before the Romney team announces him as the VP pick. Politico notes that the number of edits may be misleading:

By 10:30 a.m., Rubio was tied with Portman at 16. And the edits were almost all driven by one user’s insistence that Rubio was not the “crown prince” of the Tea party. (See above).

The problem with Sifry’s model is that tallying revisions doesn’t account for the difference between serious, substantive edits and the persistence of one user who doesn’t get his way — much less minor spelling edits or slight augmentation of dates, etc.

Those of us taken with the Wikipedia-as-oracle idea would like to believe that those 68 revisions to Sarah Palin’s page provide some sort of precedent in the Internet age. But they don’t. The day before Sarah Palin’s selection was made public, very few people knew who she was. By contrast, everyone watching the 2012 election knows about Marco Rubio or Rob Portman, and more than a few take their own research and opinions to the pages of Wikipedia.

However, as noted by NPR, then-Senator Joe Biden’s Wikipedia page also racked up 40 edits the day before he was announced as then-Senator Obama’s running mate. Politico makes no mention of this.

In light of Politico’s analysis, it seems the most surefire way to determine if these edits are meaningful is to look at the substance of the edits. The NPR story has also been linked to on Reddit, where various Redditors have made note of the changes made to Portman’s page.

Redditor WattersonBill was quick to note that entire sections of Portman’s Wikipedia page including the entire “Controvercies” section (which contained many citations), as well as one discussing his support of NAFTA in 1993, have been removed. You can view the Wikipedia page before the revisions here, and compare the revisions made by user River8009 today (mentioned in the NPR article) to the July 30 version of the page here

So far, the changes made to Senator Portman’s page appear much more substantive than those made to Senator Rubio’s page, which is highly suggestive.

Does this mean Senator Portman will be Governor Romney’s choice for his running mate? Maybe. At best, the changes that are being made to Senator Portman’s page are just another small (if suggestive) clue in the media’s constant search for “Veepstakes” tidbits. We’ll all have to wait for Romney to publicly announce his pick before we know for sure.

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