Friday, March 28, 2008

HA8 descrimination? Call the Anti-Defamation League

Imagine a license plate that begins HA8, or hate. Hate this, hate that.

In this week's podcast, Bill Nigut, southeast director of the Anti-defamation league, says those plates are very popular. He became aware of them after The Department of Revenue issued the plate "HA8 JWZ," interpreted as "Hate Jews." In fact, it was an accident (HA stands for "hobby auto," a special designation for classic cars, and the rest was pure chance), but Nigut's group convinced the department to remove the HA8 sequence. Still, Nigut says the department told him that intentionally created HA8 vanity plates are all the rage, reflecting the increasing nastiness of our political and social discourse.
Nigut is on a mission now, having left his job as a TV political reporter, and then a second thriving career in the arts. He's recruiting allies against what he says is hate speech pervading our society.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Oil interruption could send Georgia into recession

An energy shock could trigger a recession in Georgia, and the U.S. has no serious energy policy to prevent it, says Robert Sumichrast, Dean of UGA's Terry College of Business. Speaking to Buckhead Rotary, Sumichrast delivered predictions based on research by the college's Selig Center for Economic Growth.

Sumichrast says the risk of recession is imminent, and the greatest risk is in the first half of this year. The Selig Center puts the chances of a national recession at 80%, and says we may already be in it.


Georgia, however, could escape the recession if we avoid "recession triggers" of housing, oil and continuing drought, which could put the state's economy "past the tipping point." Without those triggers, the center predicts Georgia's GDP will expand by about 2.0% in 2008.

Sumichrast doesn't see housing as the greatest threat here as in California, Florida and Washington D.C., where home prices got out of hand. The drought is a bigger threat, but the biggest is the potential from an oil supply interruption.

Sumichrast says Georgia's heavy reliance on transportation-based industry makes it especially exposed to an energy crunch.

"If a refinery breaks down, if a storm rips through the gulf again and knocks out platforms, or if a war breaks out, you can think of a lot of scenarious where we could have a supply interruption," he says. "That's what I'm more worried about."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

AGL chief: Future bright for gas, until it runs out

In 100 years, all of our natural gas may be gone. But in the meantime, it'll take on a bigger role in powering our lives. So says John Somerhalder, chairman, president, and CEO of AGL Resources, parent company of Atlanta Gas Light as he addressed Buckhead Rotary on Monday.

Somerhalder says since natural gas burns cleaner than coal and faces less regulatory and community opposition, more gas plants are getting the green light than coal-fired power plants, shifting our energy portfolio toward gas.

In this week's podcast, Somerhalder says the next president's administration must develop a balanced energy policy as surging world demand strains supply. He says renewable energy sources, now providing about six percent of our needs, have no prospects for exceeding 25 percent.

He reports studies that show we'll run out of natural gas in 80-100 years, but by then we will be harnessing ocean waves and other energy sources to meet our growing needs.