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August 13 2012

17:04

What To Expect When You’re Electing: Representative Paul Ryan

With the selection of Wisconsin Republican Representative Paul Ryan has his running mate, Mitt Romney has effectively pushed his campaign into the climate change denying fringe. While Romney hasn’t been considered a friend of the environment since he began running for national office, his tendency towards flip-flopping made some of his more extreme, anti-environment positions rather toothless. But Paul Ryan is someone that isn’t just all talk, and what he’s saying will be a disaster for our environment.

While Ryan isn’t necessarily a complete climate science denier, he is certainly classified as a “skeptic,” and oftentimes has used anecdotal evidence to say that we’re making too much of a fuss over something that may or may not be happening.

Let’s start by following the money on Rep. Paul Ryan. Since 1989, he has received $65,500 from Koch Industries, making them his sixth largest campaign donor. In total, he has pulled in a little over $244,000 from the oil and gas industries.

Those finances are clearly represented in his voting history in Congress. Here are a few of Ryan’s most anti-environment, pro-industry votes since being elected:

2000 – Voted against implementing Kyoto Protocol
2001 – Voted against raising fuel economy standards
2001 – Voted against barring oil drilling in ANWR
2003 – Voted to speed up “forest thinning” projects
2005 – Voted to deauthorize “critical habitats” for endangered species
2005 – Voted to speed up oil refinery permitting
2008 – Voted against environmental education grants
2008 – Voted against tax incentives for renewable energy
2008 – Voted against tax incentives for energy conservation
2009 – Voted against enforcing CO2 limits for air pollution
2011 – Voted NO on allowing EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions
2011 – Voted YES to opening up the Outer Continental Shelf for oil drilling
2011 – Voted to eliminate climate advisors for the president
2011 – Voted in favor of allowing Keystone XL Pipeline


Ryan’s proposals and voting history are clearly being dictated by the Koch brothers, and the money that their companies continue to throw behind Ryan’s campaigns. But his actions in Congress are almost docile when compared to his activities outside of Washington, D.C.

From Think Progress:
  

In a December 2009 op-ed during international climate talks, Ryan made reference to the hacked University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit emails. He accused climatologists of a “perversion of the scientific method, where data were manipulated to support a predetermined conclusion,” in order to “intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.” Because of spurious claims of conspiracy like these, several governmental and academic inquiries were launched, all of which found the accusations to be without merit. [Paul Ryan, 12/11/09]

In the same anti-science, anti-scientist December 2009 op-ed, Ryan argued, “Unilateral economic restraint in the name of fighting global warming has been a tough sell in our communities, where much of the state is buried under snow.” Ryan’s line is especially disingenuous because he hasn’t been trying to sell climate action, he’s been spreading disinformation. [Paul Ryan, 12/11/09]
 

But the story of Paul Ryan goes much, much deeper than this. It turns out that Ryan is a huge fracking supporter, and isn’t just to benefit his benefactors. Ryan actually has a financial stake in companies that are currently pillaging the state of Wisconsin. From Badger Democracy:
  

Ryan’s 2011 SEI shows his most significant interests are in four companies, all owned by his father-in-law, Dan Little (according to Oklahoma Secretary of State corporate registration). Little is a prominent oil industry attorney (who refused comment to Badger Democracy). The total value of these interests are $350K – $800K, with annual profit of $40K – $130K:

Ava O Limited Mining Co (8% interest) – valued at $100K – $250K; paying out $15K – $50K in profit.

Blondie & Brownie, LLC (10% interest) – valued at $100K – $250K; paying out $5K – $15K in profit.

Little Land Co., LLC – valued at $50K – $100K; paying out $5K – $15K in profit.

Red River Pine Timber (7% interest) – valued at $50K – $100K; no reported profit or interest.

Also owned by Ryan are Mineral Rights in Oklahoma valued at $50K – $100K; and returning $15K – 50K in profit last year.

An examination of Ryan’s 2000 SEI and 2007 SEI show a large increase in the value of these investments. This increase corresponds directly with Ryan’s growing power over the Federal Budget process.
 

No matter how you look at it, Paul Ryan is an environmental disaster. His personal and professional wealth both hinge upon investments in the dirty energy industry, and his track record as a U.S. Representative shows how this will affect his policy decisions.

August 10 2012

17:27

Republican Ohio Governor Kasich's Trillion Dollar Shale Gas Lie

About the only positive thing you can say about industry-funded astroturf groups is that they at least base their misinformation campaigns on phony “studies” and “reports.” Their lies are based on SOMETHING.

The same cannot be said of Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has come up with a whopper based on absolutely nothing. Kasich recently told the press that his state of Ohio is sitting on top of $1 trillion worth of natural gas that’s just ripe for fracking.

Obviously, this would be quite an economic boom for not just Ohio, but the entire United States. The only problem is that, again, Kasich isn’t basing his estimate on any studies, reports, documents, surveys, or anything even remotely credible. It appears that Kasich is telling reporters that this trillion dollar bonanza number is what he overheard from members of the natural gas industry.


CityBeat explains the story:
  

Arthur Berman, a Texas-based petroleum geologist and independent energy consultant, says there is no way to verify Kasich’s number.

“No one knows what the reserve number is,” he says. “It takes longer before we know.”

Berman says a true analysis would take at least 18 months and, more realistically, eight to 10 years. This is because geologists need to wait until they “have enough months of production to see a trend,” Berman says.

Even when enough time has passed and geologists get a real estimate, Berman says there will still be a lot of uncertainty about how much of the oil and gas can actually be obtained. He says that although there might be a lot of oil and gas, it could be inaccessible due to technological and practical constraints. After all, if oil and gas reserves are found beneath a city, it’s unlikely operators will actually try to drill there.

Another question for Berman is whether Kasich expects the $1 trillion to come over time or immediately. With the way Kasich has been presenting the number to the media, Berman is worried Ohioans might be getting the impression that the $1 trillion would come as an “immediate windfall.” The reality, Berman says, is that “it takes a long time to produce natural gas and oil.” That means even if Kasich’s number was somehow right, it would take years — Berman estimates longer than Kasich’s gubernatorial terms — to see that $1 trillion.

Kasich claims he heard the number from an unnamed CEO at an energy company. That brings up some concerns for Berman. In his experience, oil and gas operators tend to overestimate production potential by about double, relative to Berman’s own data. Berman says they could be overestimating because it makes the venture seem more profitable to investors.

To truly understand how much oil and gas is underground, Berman would like to see an independent, objective opinion. More importantly, he hopes that Kasich would demand a higher standard of analysis before promoting any policy.

“I hope the governor would make decisions based on more than a lunch conversation,” Berman says.
 

Berman is absolutely correct – the head of a state needs a little bit more information than can be gathered through eavesdropping in order to come up with policies for his state.

So why the trillion dollar lie? Kasich isn’t a member of the industry, and as a whole, Follow the Money tells us that Kasich received a meager $50 from the energy industry during his last campaign. But things aren’t always what they seem. The fracking industry has been much more generous to Kasich than the reports would have you believe.

A Truth-Out report from last year reveals that Kasich actually received more than $213,000 from the natural gas industry, more than any other Ohio politician in the last 10 years. The Truth-Out report also tells us that Kasich was the recipient of an additional $127,000 from Koch Industries.

Not only does this money explain Kasich’s trillion dollar lie, but it also helps us understand why he has opened up state parks and other protected lands for natural gas companies to frack.

In the era of Super PACs, political money flowing to candidates is going to become harder and harder to trace. But when you’re making the rounds on the media, telling lies worth one trillion dollars, honest and hard working investigative journalists like those at Truth-Out and elsewhere are going to do their homework and figure out the truth.

March 23 2012

11:12

March 15 2012

22:06

U.S. Chamber Front Group Holds “Whine And Blame” Facebook Party – Nobody Shows Up

American Free Enterprise, a front group of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, held a complaint session on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon to let Americans vent about “who is to blame” for rising gas prices. Unfortunately for the group, few people attended their virtual party.

The pity party was an attempt to get Americans riled up at President Obama for allegedly being an enemy of the oil industry – a claim that conservatives have falsely been throwing around since he took office. But the lack of enthusiasm was evident by the low participation.

Here is the comment thread from the “discussion," which I captured yesterday. Names and pictures have been covered:

read more

February 07 2012

15:12

On Our Radar: Quake in the Philippines

At least 88 people are dead and/or missing. The country has tried to upgrade its disaster-response capability in recent years but is regularly stretched by such catastrophes.

January 24 2012

23:11

Another Industry Talking Point Laid To Rest: Oil Production Soars But Gas Prices Remain High

It is hard to believe that it's been almost four years since Americans were bombarded by the cry of “Drill baby, drill” that echoed throughout the halls of the Republican National Convention in 2008. That slogan became a rallying cry for conservatives who believed that increasing oil drilling – in spite of the environmental costs – would lead to an economic boom in the United States, and would also help ease prices at the pump for American consumers.

So today, nearly four years after those words were uttered to millions of conservatives, we have domestic oil production reaching a 24-year high, according to new reports. By industry and conservative logic, this should also mean that economic productivity has risen while consumer gasoline prices have fallen. But nothing could be further from the truth.

It turns out that increased oil production has nothing to do with the prices Americans pay at the pump. While industry leaders point to increased production in 2008 that was followed by lower prices, experts counter that the drop in price was due to simple market fluctuations: specifically, a drop in demand due to the global recession.

People travelled less and therefore didn’t use as much gasoline, creating a surplus that companies had to expel by lowering prices. These same experts also say that a rise in renewable energy use contributed to lower fossil fuel prices during this time period.


The truth is that the United States just doesn’t have enough fossil fuels to bring down the price of energy for American consumers. Even with our current rise in domestic fossil fuel production, prices continue to rise or remain steady without any signs of falling. The reason for this is because OPEC sets oil prices on the international stage.

When the United States increases their oil production, those figures are sent to OPEC, who then adjust the global price of oil based on our own production. Experts say that opening up all of our available areas to drilling, once factored into OPEC equations, would only reduce gasoline prices by a mere three cents per gallon, and that price drop would only last a few years.

Interestingly enough, industry leaders are still beating the (oil) drum for increased drilling and domestic oil production, even as oilrigs are sprouting up across the country, to almost no one’s benefit except the oil companies. And they are being aided along the way with their allies from conservative think tanks, conservative media, and Republican politicians.

In fact, Republicans in Congress have been so eager to open up new lands for drilling – again, in spite of the fact that drilling is occurring at a record pace – that they held 20 hearings on ways to speed up the permitting and drilling process in the last year. This was during a year where oil drilling had increased a staggering 60% since the previous year. (Think Progress has a chart showing the dirty energy industry campaign donations that went to the politicians holding these meetings.)

Even today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce continues to urge President Obama to "#getserious" about domestic energy production by increasing the lands available for energy industry exploitation.

As mentioned above, there are two factors that have been proven to lower fuel prices – economic recession and replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. And both of those factors work the same way, which is to decrease the demand for fossil fuels. Until demand falls, the industry has absolutely no reason to lower prices. In fact, the companies are legally required to do all that they can to protect their profits and the “best interest” of their shareholders, so lowering prices because of increased production is not even an option that is on the table.

It is doubtful that the industry, and those with financial or political ties to the dirty energy industry, will ever concede the fact that increased oil drilling will not lower energy prices. But the facts are not on their side, so no matter how often they repeat those talking points they will never be truthful.

January 04 2012

01:59

What We Didn’t Learn From The Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Almost 20 months have passed since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. And to this day, the lessons we should have learned from that disaster remain completely ignored.

In spite of an intense battle involving a moratorium on deep water oil drilling after the explosion, the Obama administration was out-maneuvered on the issue by the powerful oil industry, losing court battles as well as facing three separate bills in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to overturn the drilling moratorium. (An interesting side-note about the court battle is that the judge who overturned the ban, Martin Feldman, actually owned stock in Transocean at the time of his decision.)

With oil still washing ashore at the time of the first proposed moratorium, right wing bloggers helped muddy the waters by claiming that the moratorium was devastating Gulf economies. The conservative website Free Republic even posted a video and story about the “Victims of the Obama Drilling Moratorium,” that turned oil companies into the victims as local fishermen and tourist-centered businesses were struggling to make ends meet. Their analysis of the real “victims” was based on “investigations” by oil-funded groups like The Heritage Foundation and the Institute for Energy Research. A commenter on that video had the audacity to claim, “Obama just killed Louisiana more than Katrina.”

But the right wing attacks on the moratorium paid off, and today the deepwater offshore oil industry is once again thriving in the Gulf of Mexico.


From The Associated Press, via Huffington Post:

Across the Gulf, energy companies are probing dozens of new deepwater fields thanks to high oil prices and technological advances that finally make it possible to tap them.

The newfound oil will not do much to lower global oil prices. But together with increased production from onshore U.S. fields and slowing domestic demand for gasoline, it could help reduce U.S. oil imports by more than half over the next decade.

Eighteen months ago, such a flurry of activity in the Gulf seemed unlikely. The Obama administration halted drilling and stopped issuing new permits after the explosion of a BP well killed 11 workers and caused the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

But the drilling moratorium was eventually lifted and the Obama administration issued the first new drilling permit in March. Now the Gulf is humming again and oil executives describe it as the world's best place to drill.

And the number of oil rigs is only expected to climb in the next few months, even though the oil that is recovered is doing next to nothing to lower energy prices:

By early 2012, there will be 40 deepwater rigs in the Gulf, up from 37 before the BP spill, according to Cinnamon Odell of ODS-Petrodata. BP received its first permit to drill in late October.

The Gulf produces an average of 1.5 million barrels of oil per day, according to Wood Mackenzie. That's 27 percent of U.S. output and 8 percent of U.S. demand.

As the BP disaster made clear, drilling in deep water presents difficulties and dangers. Last month a Chevron well in the deep waters off of Brazil ruptured and spilled 2,400 barrels of oil into the Atlantic after Chevron underestimated the pressure of the oil field it was tapping.

So we’ve established that deepwater offshore drilling is dirty, dangerous, and does little to help meet oil demand. But the dirty energy industry has money – lots of it – and they don’t mind throwing their weight around in American politics to achieve their goals.

But there is a small glimmer of hope to kick off the new year: The federal government is finally gearing up to file criminal charges against BP for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Agence France-Presse by way of RawStory laid it out as follows:

US prosecutors are readying criminal charges against British oil giant BP employees over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident that led to the catastrophic Gulf oil spill, The Wall Street Journal reported online.

The charges if brought and prosecuted by the US Justice Department would be the first criminal charges over the disaster.

Citing sources close to the matter, the Journal said the prosecutors are focusing on US-based BP engineers and at least one supervisor who they say may have provided false information to regulators on the risks of deep water drilling in the Gulf.

Felony charges for providing false information in federal documents may be made public early next year, said the Journal.

We have documented in the past the ways in which federal regulators allowed the oil companies to run roughshod over laws, and these potential federal charges are a bit of fresh air for those of us who live on the coast.

While the criminal charges are needed, it is unlikely that they will hinder the expansion of oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. As long as the oil industry’s tentacles reach through the corridors of Washington, they will be able to make their own rules when it comes to drilling.

Reposted by02mydafsoup-01bp-ads

October 26 2011

22:15

A Coast Guard Challenge: Arctic Drilling

The closest Coast Guard base to a proposed site for offshore drilling in the Arctic is in Kodiak, Ak., more than 1,000 miles to the south.

September 13 2011

17:55

Polluters Join Forces To Pressure Obama On Oil And Gas Drilling

In the wake of President Obama’s speech on job creation last week, major players in the energy industry have banded together to put pressure on the president to speed up the permitting process for new oil and gas drilling leases. At least 17 different companies and interest groups sent a joint letter to the president telling him that the best way to create jobs is to allow the dirty energy industry to drill, baby, drill.

From the industry letter:
  

One policy initiative that simultaneously creates high-paying jobs and increases revenues into federal coffers would be to improve efficiency and the rate of permitting activity in the Gulf of Mexico to a rate that is commensurate with industry’s ability to invest. Because safe, reliable domestic energy impacts all sectors of the US economy — manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and small business – such a move makes sense in light of the new regulatory regime and containment protocols developed by the Interior Department and private industry working in partnership.


The dirty energy industry would like us to believe that the administration’s energy protocols for drilling are hindering job growth in the country, even though the current wait time for drilling approval is about three months. Their claims of “safety” also ring hollow for those of us living on the Gulf Coast who are still witnessing oil washing up on our shores more than a year after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank into the Gulf of Mexico, spewing oil into the water for more than three months.

The American Petroleum Institute was not a part of the 17 groups that sent the letter to the president, but they have not been silent in the jobs debate. In a recent release, the API claimed that by lifting restrictions on oil and gas drilling, the energy industry would add as many as 1.4 million jobs and generate as much as $800 billion in tax revenue for the federal government. API president Jack Gerard acknowledged that it would take about 7 years for all of these jobs to materialize, far less than the estimated 2 million “green” jobs created in just one year by the President’s 2009 stimulus package.



Despite the fact that the green jobs sector can create jobs faster than oil and gas drilling, the dirty energy industry has a much louder megaphone and more resources to push misinformation onto the public. The folks over at the industry-funded website GlobalWarming.org (funded and maintained by the Competitive Enterprise Institute) recently posted about how the president’s stimulus package and green jobs initiatives actually lost American jobs. They also beat the familiar drum of “job-killing regulations.”

From GlobalWarming.org’s Hans Bader:
  

No net jobs were created in America last month (even as the people needing jobs increased), as the Obama Administration drafted a host of new job-killing regulations and threatened costly lawsuits against employers. But rather than rethink his failed economic policies, Obama is planning to spend billions more on green-jobs fantasies and boondoggles…

The $800 billion stimulus package was indeed a failure. It contained ill-conceived provisions that ignited trade wars with foreign countries such as Mexico, wiping out jobs in our export sector and aggravating America’s trade deficit. The stimulus package’s green jobs funding, nearly 80 percent of which went to foreign firms, effectively outsourced thousands of American jobs to foreign countries, at taxpayer expense. More corporate welfare for “green energy” will do nothing to fix the overall bad business climate, which is discouraging job creation.
 

Again, their claims seem to be at odds with reality, as we recently reported on several studies that prove that the Administration’s environmental protections are actually helping to create jobs in America. And as for their claims regarding the oil they would produce from increased drilling, those are also false. As we previously reported:
  

The oil-loving Bush Administration actually did a wonderful job proving how little the impact would be if we opened up the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil drilling. According to their own estimates, the oil would take about a decade or more before it even reached the market, and at that point might bring the price of oil down by about 50 cents per barrel at its peak. That translates to a reduction of about 1 to 3 cents less per gallon of gasoline at the pump. They estimated that there are roughly 10 billion barrels of oil in the wildlife refuge, and since the US consumes 6.6 billion barrels a year, despoiling that wild public treasure would only supply enough oil to completely fuel the United States (no imports or other sources) for about a year and a half. After that, the well is completely dry.

The Gulf of Mexico oil reserves don’t offer much to get excited about either. According to the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the best estimates say that there could be as much as 20 billion barrels of oil in the Gulf (again, at best.) This means that the Gulf could fully supply America for maybe 3 years, if the estimates are correct.

But this doesn’t mean that Obama will turn a deaf ear to their cries. He has been incredibly forgiving to the dirty energy industry, and has managed to give in to most of their demands since taking office. And with national elections a little more than a year away and unemployment the major talking point, the president could easily cave into polluter demands in an attempt to show the public that he did everything possible to create American jobs.

Reposted by02mydafsoup-01 02mydafsoup-01

June 15 2011

18:52

Report: Broad Bipartisan Support For Action On Climate Change

A new report by George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication shows that voters in America are concerned about global climate change, and would support broad action by the federal government to prevent future disaster. The report shows that voters from both major political parties are at odds with most Republicans in Washington, who have made it clear that they are not concerned with climate change and their voting records reflect that lack of concern.

The focus that most Congressional Republicans have had involving climate change revolves around U.S. energy policy. They believe that the only solution to America’s energy crisis and high gas prices is to drill in every available square inch of American soil or American waters. And while the report shows that 66% of Americans are in favor of more domestic oil drilling, it is likely because they are unaware that any new oil produced in the United States would have no impact on energy prices.
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Here are some of the key findings from George Mason University’s report:

71 percent of Americans say global warming should be a very high (13%), high (27%), or medium (31%) priority for the president and Congress, including 50 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Independents and 88 percent of Democrats.

91 percent of Americans say developing sources of clean energy should be a very high (32%), high (35%), or medium (24%) priority for the president and Congress, including 85 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Independents, and 97 percent of Democrats.

Majorities of Americans want more action to address global warming from corporations (65%), citizens themselves (63%), the U.S. Congress (57%), President Obama (54%), as well as their own state and local officials.

Despite ongoing concerns about the economy, 67 percent of Americans say the U.S. should undertake a large (29%) or medium-scale effort (38%) to reduce global warming, even if it has large or moderate economic costs.

82 percent of Americans (including 76% of Republicans, 74% of Independents, and 94% of Democrats) say that protecting the environment either improves economic growth and provides new jobs (56%), or has no effect (26%). Only 18 percent say environmental protection reduces economic growth and costs jobs.

Large majorities (including Republicans, Independents, and Democrats) say it is important for their own community to take steps to protect the following from global warming: public health (81%), thewater supply (80%), agriculture (79%), wildlife (77%), and forests (76%).

84 percent of Americans support funding more research into renewable energy sources, including 81 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of Independents, and 90 percent of Democrats.

68 percent of Americans support requiring electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from renewable energy sources, even if it costs the average household an extra $100 a year, including 58 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of Independents, and 82 percent of Democrats.

Josh Nelson at EnviroKnow created some charts to help illustrate the findings:

Again, as these numbers from May 2011 show, both Republicans and Democrats support efforts to reduce climate change, and yet the Republican majority in Congress is doing everything in their power to prevent any climate action. This year alone, Republicans have voted 7 times to continue giving billions of dollars worth of subsidies to oil companies every year. They cut almost $900 million from the federal budget for research into renewable energy. They stripped $6 billion worth of ethanol subsidies. And filibustered a bill amendment put forth by Democratic Senator Max Baucus (MT) that would have provided the following:

Tax credits for heavy hybrid and natural gas vehicles and a 30% investment tax credit for alternative fuel refueling stations.

A $1-per-gallon production tax credit for biodiesel and biomass diesel and the small agri-biodiesel producer credit of 10 cents per gallon extended through 2011.

A 50-cent-per-gallon tax credit for biomass and other alternative fuels.

Tax credits for energy-efficient appliances and homes.

Adding $2.5 billion in funding for Section 48C the advanced energy manufacturing 30% tax credit for companies manufacturing advanced clean energy products and materials.

Reinstate the Research and Development tax credit for renewable energy.



The actions being taken by Congress are clearly not in line with the desires of the American public. However, with the economy still performing poorly, these issues will likely take a backseat to economic issues in the next general election.

June 14 2011

22:24

Koch Money Fuels AFP Misinformation Campaign On Gas Prices

The Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is taking their misinformation machine on the road in an attempt to convince American consumers that President Obama is causing the spike in gasoline prices. AFP is claiming that the president is intentionally keeping gas prices high because he refuses to allow oil companies to drill for oil in protected areas of the United States.

The tour is necessary for the AFP, as Americans do not believe that President Obama should be blamed for high gasoline prices. A staggering 61% of Americans say that the blame lies on the shoulders of the energy companies, and 59% say that some of the blame lies with the oil speculators. These numbers are not sitting well with the oil industry, and the AFP tour is just one of many oil industry tactics to try to shift public opinion using misinformation.

AFP’s “Running on Empty” campaign has scheduled stops in Virginia, Michigan, and Ohio in the upcoming days, to “teach” Americans about the numerous ways in which President Obama is making them pay higher prices at the pump.

AFP conveniently ignores the fact that gas prices were north of $4 a gallon during the Bush administration, when they peaked at $4.12, as pointed out by protesters who showed up at one of AFP's early gas tour events in Nebraska.  But in the alternate reality that AFP is creating to enable Koch's further oil profits, it's somehow all Obama's fault.
<!--break-->Here are the specific actions the president has taken, according to AFP, that have raised gas prices:

Illegal Moratoriums: After the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf, President Obama issued a moratorium on all new offshore drilling. The message is clear: Obama is against domestic energy production.

Canceling existing oil and gas leases: Amazingly, not only has Obama blocked any new permits but he’s also reaching back and canceling drilling leases that were already in place when he took office.

Locking up lands in the West: The federal government is working overtime to make sure Americans cannot access their own domestic resources.

EPA’s job-crushing regulations (you can read the truth about these “job-crushing” regulations here.)

As we’ve covered in the past, increased domestic oil drilling will have absolutely no impact on gas prices. Oil prices are set on an international market, and since the amount of oil (and the amount of time it would take to get to market) in the U.S. is relatively small, the most significant impact it could have would be to lower gas prices by about 2 cents per gallon. But still, Republicans continue to push the myth that increasing domestic drilling will benefit all of us immediately.

And their critique of President Obama seems way off base as well. President Obama has actually been a supporter of domestic drilling, and is currently working to expand offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico – an area that is still awash with the remnants of oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster last year – as well as rethinking the ban on oil drilling in ANWR. These are not the actions of an oil industry foe.

But this still isn’t enough for the Koch brothers and their Astroturf bus tour. More domestic drilling might not have a noticeable impact on our bank accounts, but those in the oil industry can expect billions of dollars in profits from increased drilling. This is why the Koch brothers, and their Americans for Prosperity front group, spent a combined $2.6 million dollars on electioneering last year alone. From the Center for Responsive Politics:

Americans for Prosperity spent $1.3 million on electioneering communications in the 2010 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In the 2010 cycle, the Koch Industries PAC gave $1.3 million to Congressional candidates with 90 percent going to Republicans.

The Koch Industries PAC has handed out $300,500 in contributions to federal candidates and political committees so far in 2011, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) received $45,000 from Koch Industries PAC in the 2010 cycle, falling only second to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) re-election campaign.

Charles Koch donated at least $107,900 to federal candidates and committees in the 2010 cycle (not including his donations to the Koch PAC). Top recipients included the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) with $30,400 in donations and the National Republican Congressional Committee ($24,500).

David Koch spent at least $99,291 on campaign contributions to federal candidates and committees in the 2010 cycle (not including his donations to the Koch PAC), with the NRSC receiving $34,900 and the NRCC receiving $25,000.


The Koch’s spend a lot of money to purchase, or defeat, members of Congress, and in their effort to blame Obama for high gas prices, it looks like a few Republicans are trying to pay off that Koch debt by getting their hands dirty.

Several freshman GOP Congressman have taken it upon themselves to stage “gas pumping events” at gas stations in their jurisdictions to promote the lie that the rise in price is Obama’s fault. Two of the four Republican congressman involved in these stunts – Jeff Duncan (SC) and Todd Young (IN) – have taken $2,500 and $5,000 respectively from Koch Industries.

The Koch brothers and AFP are working with seemingly limitless funds, and it is unlikely that they will allow their gas price tour to end before they are able to change at least a few people’s minds. The bigger issue is whether the Democrats and President Obama will cave into the pressure from these groups and allow more drilling in an attempt to appease the Kochtopus, which will surely be funding GOP candidates in the next election.

May 31 2011

12:15

House Republicans Distort Reality To Blame Obama For High Gas Prices

Never ones to let facts get in the way of a good political smear, House Republicans released a report blaming President Obama and the Democrats for high gas prices in America. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by Republican Representative Darrell Issa, claims that the president has launched a concerted effort within the government to keep energy prices high in order to force “green technology” on the public.

The new report says that onerous environmental policies put in place by the administration and enforced by the EPA are causing domestic energy prices to rise dramatically, effectively killing jobs and hurting every American who drives a car. They also say that Obama is limiting oil companies’ ability to drill for "American" oil in places like the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and that the President is not allowing them to exploit the natural resources of our country by imposing limits on hydraulic fracturing. <!--break-->
The committee went as far as to call for a full blown hearing last week, where they grilled EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and David Hayes, Deputy Secretary at the Department of the Interior, on the necessity of environmental policies that hinder domestic energy production. Here are a few highlights of the Committee’s report:

Many of the “green” energy sources promoted by the administration “create unintended environmental, security and economic consequences,” for example, by increasing the demand for Chinese “rare earth” materials, which subsequently boosts harmful coal production because that’s where more than two-thirds of China’s energy comes from.

Current administration policies have limited the domestic production of oil by restricting access to resources located along the outer continental shelf. Many of these restrictions were put in place before the disastrous Gulf oil spill.

Despite the fact that the United States relies on carbon-based fuels for more than 80 percent of its energy needs, the Obama administration has been “aggressively suppressing” the utilization of these fuels.

While their points might look good on paper or in 10-second sound bites, they are not even close to reality. For example, the GOP says that Obama has prevented industry from drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and that he is not allowing them to drill on public lands, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But as we’ve reported in the past, Obama has actually opened up more areas of the Gulf for drilling, and is currently actively working to open up areas of Alaska for oil drilling. Even in the wake of the BP oil disaster, he is still allowing more drilling permits for deepwater drilling.

They also ignore the fact that before the recession, and before President Obama was in office to enact any of these “price-raising policies,” American consumers were paying more than $4 per gallon of gasoline at the pump. Not surprisingly, this little nugget of information didn’t make it onto their list.

Also notoriously absent from their laundry list of factors driving up gasoline prices was the role of oil speculators. Writing for The Nation, author Chris Hayes describes how oil speculators are driving up the cost of gasoline:

In the wake of the price explosion in the summer of 2008, a bubble that extended to all kinds of commodities, including copper and wheat, a number of observers from George Soros to Hedge Fund manager Michael Masters to former Commodities Future Trading Commission staffer and derivatives expert Michael Greenberg concluded that the underlying supply-and-demand fundamentals couldn’t account for the sharp rise in prices. In the first six months of 2008, US economic output was declining while global supply was increasing. And even if supply and demand were, over the long run, pushing the price of oil up, that alone couldn’t explain the massive volatility in the market. Oil cost $65 per barrel in June 2007, $147 a year later, down to $30 in December 2008 and back up to $72 in June 2009.

The culprits, they concluded, were Wall Street speculators.

Commodities markets involve essentially two kinds of participants: there are so-called “end users” like farmers and airlines that use commodities markets as a form of insurance against future price fluctuations, and then there are speculators—hedge funds, investors, big banks that try to make money by correctly betting on those same price fluctuations.

But again, this information was absent from their new report.

There is no reason to believe that Congressional Republicans want to help lower gas prices for American consumers – their only goal is to help the oil companies that put them in office make more money. Issa, who led the hearings, has taken in more than $140,000 over his career from the oil industry, and close to $200,000 from electric utilities. The newly created House Energy Action Team is stacked with Republicans who are awash in dirty energy industry cash.

There is no quick fix for U.S. energy policy. Today, domestic oil production is higher than any time in almost a decade, yet American consumers are still getting robbed at the gas pump. Until the Obama administration gets serious about alternatives, this robbery, and the lies from the Republicans, will continue to happen on a regular basis.

May 27 2011

19:52

Oil and Gas Disasters Raise The Ire of Colorado Hunters

The Bull Moose Sportsmen Alliance in Colorado has set their sights on the oil and gas industry. In a new report, the hunting and fishing group highlights the damage that the dirty energy industry has done to their hunting and fishing grounds for years. Among the more damning findings are the fact that there are over 100 oil spills every year in just three counties in Colorado – Garfield, Mesa, and Rio Blanco. The state of Colorado has confirmed that no fewer than 77 of these spills managed to taint water supplies of the three counties. These spills combined have leaked more than 5.6 million gallons of oil into the lands that the Bull Moose Sportsmen Alliance works to preserve.

As the Alliance points out, the hunting and fishing industry in Colorado brings in more than $1.2 billion a year, making it more profitable than the sports industry in the state, which includes NFL, NBA, and MLB teams. But thanks to the reckless oil and gas industry, the ecosystems and habitat that hunters and fishermen spend that billion-plus dollars to enjoy are threatened.
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Here are some of the highlights from the group’s report:

Oil and gas companies reported 992 oil and gas spills from 2001 to 2010. Those spills released at least 5.6 million gallons of wastewater, oil and other chemicals and fluids.

Operators in Garfield County – the epicenter of a natural gas drilling boom in the last decade – reported 535 spills reported to state regulators from 2001 to 2010. Those releases spilled about 3.5 million gallons of oil and gas fluids. Nearly 2 million gallons were unrecovered and remain on the landscapes of the county.

Garfield County also recorded the highest amount of oil and gas spills and releases that tainted surface and groundwater. In 10 years, incidents have infiltrated surface water at least 45 times and groundwater 11 times.

Wastewater from oil and gas operations accounts for the vast majority of spilled fluids in the three counties. About 91 percent of the oil and gas fluids spilled in the three counties from 2001 to 2010 was wastewater, which is also known as produced water. That water can contain salt, oil and grease, along with naturally occurring radioactive material and inorganic and organic compounds.

Equipment failure was the leading cause for spills in Garfield, Rio Blanco and Mesa counties with at least 49 percent of the 992 spills were caused by faulty equipment. Human error caused at least 23 percent of the spills, according to the analysis.


The group fears that the increased pressure from Washington to drill for more domestic oil and gas will only exacerbate the current problems in their area, which would lead to irreparable harm to their environment, economy, and personal lives.

For more information about the Bull Moose Sportsmen Alliance, visit their website and download the full report [PDF].

May 20 2011

17:16

On Oil Drilling, Which Obama Do We Trust?

Mainstream media has been covering oil in some form or fashion nonstop for weeks. Stories abound over high gasoline prices, oil industry subsidies, and oil drilling. And in spite of all of this coverage and numerous speeches, it is unclear where the Obama Administration stands on the issues.

While on the campaign trail in 2008, Obama told us that he would continue the ban that was in place on new offshore drilling projects in American waters. A year after taking office, he reversed this position and opened up 500,000 square miles of water for oil drilling. Less than a month after opening up these waters, disaster struck as BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank, causing millions of gallons of oil to leak into the Gulf of Mexico. After this tragedy, the Obama Administration put a moratorium in place to stop new leases on offshore drilling, going back to his original campaign promise.

Unfortunately, just a year later, the administration has apparently forgotten the lessons we learned after BP’s blowout, as this week they announced that they are not only in favor of opening up more waters for drilling, but are also planning on opening up areas of Alaska for the oil companies to plunder.

So I ask – which Obama do we trust? Campaign Obama? Post-election Obama? Post-BP Obama? Or present-day Obama? <!--break-->
It is incredibly naïve to take any politician for their word during a campaign, and I’ll even go as far as to admit that viewing the issues from outside of Washington may not grant the full picture of the issue, but all of the available research tells us that even if we were to open up every available inch of land for oil drilling, it would do nothing to get us off our foreign oil addiction, or reduce the prices we’re paying at the pump.

The oil-loving Bush Administration actually did a wonderful job proving how little the impact would be if we opened up the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil drilling. According to their own estimates, the oil would take about a decade or more before it even reached the market, and at that point might bring the price of oil down by about 50 cents per barrel at its peak. That translates to a reduction of about 1 to 3 cents less per gallon of gasoline at the pump. They estimated that there are roughly 10 billion barrels of oil in the wildlife refuge, and since the US consumes 6.6 billion barrels a year, despoiling that wild public treasure would only supply enough oil to completely fuel the United States (no imports or other sources) for about a year and a half. After that, the well is completely dry.

The Gulf of Mexico oil reserves don’t offer much to get excited about either. According to the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the best estimates say that there could be as much as 20 billion barrels of oil in the Gulf (again, at best.) This means that the Gulf could fully supply America for maybe 3 years, if the estimates are correct.

The facts tell it all – the only group that will benefit from increased oil drilling in America is the oil industry. Those of us who aren’t a part of that club will see absolutely no benefit from increased domestic drilling.

But while Americans have been rightly focused on the fact that oil companies are reaping billions of dollars in subsidies from the federal government every year, they’ve turned a deaf ear to the issue of drilling. The U.S. Senate narrowly defeated a measure this week to expand drilling, but with our president pushing for more, and a Republican-controlled Congress pushing even harder, the very leaders who should be working to kick America's dirty and deadly oil habit are instead solidifying our addiction.

March 08 2011

17:32

March 03 2011

22:55

September 05 2010

11:30

A Voice From the Next Offshore Oil Frontier

The energy industry centered in Prudhoe Bay is the economic engine of the North Slope, helping preserve the Inupiat culture, but it also presents a potential threat to that culture. Mayor Edward Itta of the North Slope Borough e-mailed answers to our questions about these conflicts.
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