Tumblelog by Soup.io
Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

August 27 2012

19:41

Fuel Economy Standards To Save U.S. Consumers Billions, Create Jobs, Yet Republicans Say Too Expensive

A proposed rule by the Obama Administration to raise fuel economy standards for cars and “light-trucks” is facing mounting attacks by Republican lawmakers. The proposed rule would require all newly manufactured automobiles that fall under the car or light truck category to achieve a minimum gas mileage of 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025.

The crusade against the new CAFE standards is being led by Republican Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Issa claims that the new standards amount to “coercion” of the auto industry. Rep. Issa has received more than $188,000 from the oil industry during his career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Issa’s statements show how out of touch he truly is with both economics and business, as the new standards were the result of cooperation between the Obama Administration and the auto industry itself.

The new fuel economy standards have been approved by Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and Volvo, who together control 90% of the United States’ auto sales market.

U.S. News and World Report details the contention over the standards, as well as the benefits for consumers:
  

Fuel economy standards have become a surprising example of tougher government rules that benefit practically everybody. In 2007, the Bush administration raised the gas mileage requirements automakers had to meet. Then in 2009, the Obama administration raised them further. Those rules, which are about to be finalized in detail, will require each automaker's fleet to average a lofty 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025—roughly double the mileage requirement of just five years ago.

The aggressive new standards are controversial, especially among Republicans opposed to activist government. GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, for one, characterizes the new rules as just another effort to "insert the federal government into the life of the private sector." He has suggested that if elected, he'll roll back or even seek to eliminate federal mileage standards.

Yet so far, the new mileage rules have generated tangible benefits for consumers, with few of the downsides opponents have predicted. "Without a doubt, the new rules have been a win-win for everybody," says Jesse Toprak, of the car-research site TrueCar.com. "It's a win for consumers, a win for manufacturers, and a win for the environment."

Boosting fuel economy by four or five miles per gallon might not sound earth-shattering—until you bank the savings. A 5 mpg improvement would save about $525 per year for a motorist who drives 15,000 miles annually, if gas were at $3.50 per gallon. With gas at $4 per gallon, the savings would amount to $600 per year.
 

But the benefits of the new standards extend far beyond personal bank accounts. Reports show that the new fuel standards would create an estimated 700,000 new American jobs.

Republicans like Darrell Issa claim that the $192 billion price tag that the standards impose on industry is too lofty to incur right now, but that view is incredibly short-sighted and dishonest.

The new standards will save a projected $1.7 trillion for U.S. consumers by the time of full implementation, meaning that the investment will pay off tenfold. Additionally, by the year 2025, reports show that consumers will be saving an average of $8,000 a year per vehicle.

Issa is not alone in his crusade against the new standards. Joining him in the fight is Republican Representative Mike Kelly from Pennsylvania, who happens to have amassed his $11.9 million personal fortune from the car dealerships that he owns in Pennsylvania. Kelly made the following statement about the new standards: “The new CAFE standards will limit choice, compromise safety, and increase costs to millions of Americans.”

Unfortunately for Kelly, there are no numbers or statistics to back up any of these claims, particularly his statement about compromising the safety of consumers. Safety and fuel economy aren’t two things that are directly related, so it would be interesting to find out where he pulled that from.

Again, all of the major automobile makers have signed onto the new standards, and agree they are necessary to save consumers money, to help their businesses survive in a competitive economy, and to help reduce air pollution emissions.

The only people who stand against the new standards are the politicians beholden to the dirty energy industry.

August 23 2012

10:00

US Chamber Rejoices As Courts Rule For Polluters

Earlier this week, an appellate court in Washington, D.C. ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had overstepped their authority with their Transport Rule that was put in place to reduce the amount of air pollution being spewed from coal burning plants. The rule would have put stringent limits on the amount of pollution that was being emitted and carried across state lines by weather.

The Courier-Journal has more:

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found in a 2-1 ruling that the EPA, in its so-called “Transport Rule,” had required too much pollution cutting when regulating power plants in 27 upwind states.

In looking at the rule’s “good neighbor” provisions under the Clean Air Act, the court found the EPA did not allow states time to reduce pollution on their own before taking its own action.

The EPA’s own estimates show that the rule could have prevented as many as 15,000 heart attacks a year, 19,000 emergency room visits, and would have reduced sulfur dioxide emissions by 73% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 54%. Both of those are known lung irritants.

Wasting no time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent their astroturf division out to tout the court’s ruling as a victory for businesses, and for America. The Institute for 21st Century Energy, the Chamber’s energy front group, released the following statement from their president, Karen Harbert:

“Today’s decision is good news for consumers and for the reliability of our electricity grid. It is notable that for the second time in two weeks, federal circuit courts have affirmed the primary responsibility of states—not the EPA—in determining how to meet air quality standards under the Clean Air Act.”

“It has always been the contention of the Chamber that EPA regulations should be supported by sound science and accurate analysis. The EPA has habitually inflated the benefits and underestimated the costs of its regulations.”
 

The EPA was granted the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions by the U.S. Supreme Court back in 2007, but the recently struck down rule did not apply to carbon dioxide, only sulfur and nitrogen. However, if the case makes its way up to the Supreme Court, it is likely that the 2007 ruling could be broadened to include emissions in addition to carbon dioxide.

And while the Chamber was quick to jump on the side of industry claiming that the costs of the regulations were too lofty, they completely ignored all of the available evidence that these new air pollution standards would have actually saved our economy trillions of dollars.

An analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency [PDF] shows that the cost of fully implementing the Clean Air Act – which included the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide regulations of the Transport Rule – would have cost $65 billion. However, they would have saved a grand total of $2 trillion for the economy as a whole, which includes the healthcare burdens shifted to American taxpayers for pollution-related illnesses, giving us a net gain of $1.935 trillion.

So now, we have an industry and their corporate lackeys at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who aren’t just putting their profits above the health of American citizens, but they are putting those profits ahead of the health of the already-fragile U.S. economy. The American taxpayers will continue to foot the bill for those who get sick from the pollution the dirty energy industry continues to pump into our atmosphere.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a long history of being on the wrong side of environmental issues. A few years ago, they were the target of enormous corporate backlash when they continued to ignore climate change, leading numerous high-profile companies like Nike and Apple to leave the group because of their backwards-thinking, science-denying operations.

The U.S. Chamber and their “Institute for 21st Century Energy” have also been strong proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, as Ben Jervey pointed out for DeSmogBlog last year.

But the U.S. Chamber isn’t the only villain – state and local chapters of the Chamber of Commerce have been on the forefront of climate change denial and polluter defense for years. Think Progress reported that the state branches of the Chamber of Commerce in Kansas, Michigan, West Virginia, and Indiana have done their best to either completely deny climate change, host speakers that deny climate change, or to confuse the public about this issue. In the state of Michigan, the Chamber is actually lobbying against efforts to invest in renewable energy, which would create much-needed jobs.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is consistently referred to as the country’s most powerful business group and lobbying organization, and they have worked hard to earn that title. So far in 2012, the group has already spent close to $60 million on lobbying and political spending, which already matches the entire amount that the group spent during the 2007 – 2008 presidential election cycle in the U.S.

One of the main reasons the U.S. Chamber has been so successful with their lobbying efforts is that they have a very broad focus. While most companies or interest groups focus solely on elected representatives, the U.S. Chamber has spent an enormous amount of time, money, and energy lobbying the Judicial Branch. And as this week’s ruling shows, that has been a wildly successful venture for the group.

And this week wasn’t a fluke, either. According to reports, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce emerged as the clear victor in this year’s Supreme Court session, allegedly remaining “undefeated” in the issues that they became involved in.

The court that issued this week’s ruling, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has a very conservative majority sitting on the bench. Only three of the appellate judges in the Circuit were appointed by a Democratic president, and those were from Bill Clinton. The Court currently has three vacant seats, which leaves President Obama as little as 4 months to fill those vacancies, if Mitt Romney wins this year’s elections.

Americans tend to forget about our Judicial Branch of government, and of the three branches, the Judiciary gets away with a lot more than our Executive or Legislative branches. It is also a branch that is dangerously susceptible to dirty money, and the lack of public attention allows activist, anti-environmental judges to receive powerful, often lifetime appointments that are nearly impossible to undo. The recent anti-environmental court rulings should serve as a wakeup call to American citizens.

August 11 2012

17:59

Romney’s New Campaign Strategy: Attack Green Jobs During Massive Unemployment

Since President Obama took office, industry-funded think tanks and faux grassroots organizations, along with oil-friendly politicians have been collectively demanding to know “where are the jobs?” And with last month’s jobs report showing an increase in the U.S. unemployment rate (even though there was a net job gain for the month, making 28 consecutive months of private sector job growth) it would be unwise for any politician seeking national office to attack programs to put Americans back to work. But Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is doing exactly that.

On the campaign trail recently, Romney took a few jabs at Obama, claiming that the president has an “unhealthy obsession with green jobs,” a claim that numerous media outlets are warning will not resonate well with the American public.

The Associated Press points out, as we mentioned last week, that Romney’s energy plan (which is being guided by industry insiders) would cut tax breaks for renewable energy sources like wind energy, while expanding tax breaks for oil companies. AP also noted that the American public, by a two-to-one margin, favor renewable energy over fossil fuels, showing that Romney’s positions go against the majority of Americans.

While most media outlets have only given cursory attention to Romney’s comments about Obama’s alleged “obsession” with green jobs, it's not a remark that should be taken lightly. In fact, it tells us a lot about what we can expect from Romney should he win the presidency.


The green economy is one that has never really been given a chance to survive in our "free market system." While stimulus money has flowed to many renewable energy companies, the lack of a green infrastructure has caused these projects to remain stagnant.

Investment in green jobs shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We could create millions of American jobs – jobs that can’t be outsourced; We could reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and reduce our oil imports from hostile nations; And we would help reduce the country’s carbon footprint. None of those are partisan issues, as both major parties have talked about the need to do all of the above.

That’s not hyperbole, either. Studies abound about the benefits of investing in a green economy. But they also all say the same thing – More has to be done to create a delivery system for renewable energy. At the moment, there is no major infrastructure for delivering renewable energy to the masses, leaving the vast majority of the country reliant on fossil fuels to power their lives.

There are very few, if any, drawbacks to investing in clean energy, green jobs, and renewable technology. The benefits listed above should be enough to get any American on board, as long as that American isn’t a fossil fuel CEO.

Following the money on the issue helps us understand why we’re still so far behind in the green economy sector. USA Today has the numbers:
  

Last year alone ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and the American Petroleum Institute, the trade group that represents these energy giants, used $66.2 million for lobbying efforts, nearly 44% of the $150 million total spent by the oil and gas industry, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Collectively, nearly 800 lobbyists worked on behalf of oil and gas interests in 2011.

The total towers over the $53 million spent by what the center classifies as the "miscellaneous energy" industry — which counts the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy and the American Wind Energy Association as its members. The grouping includes 751 lobbyists.
 

The Obama administration has also met fierce opposition on their renewable energy and green jobs investments by industry-funded think tanks and astroturf organizations like Americans for Prosperity and ALEC. These groups are able to outspend their green counterparts, and in Washington, D.C., that gives them access to a much larger microphone.

And that brings us back to Romney. He’s already shown us that he’s willing to employ dirty energy industry insiders to craft his energy policy, and his claims about Obama’s “obsession” with green jobs is an extension of his pandering to the oil and gas industries. After all, they have the finances that he needs to keep his campaign alive through November.

Reports from earlier this year tell us that at least 3 million American workers are employed in the “green economy” sector, most of which are with private sector firms. Romney’s attack on Obama is an attack on the 3 million workers in this industry.

August 06 2012

16:40

House Republicans Sacrifice Human Health For Alleged Job Creation

With July 2012 officially behind us, the U.S. jobs report for the month has economists and politicians concerned about the employment situation in America. And even though the economy added 163,000 jobs (economists had predicted only 100,000 jobs to be added for July,) the unemployment rate and the underemployment rate both crept slightly upwards. And with national elections coming up in three months, poor jobs numbers could be bad for our health.

If history is any indicator, Conservative politicians and think tanks will use last month’s poor jobs report in an attempt to provide massive giveaways to their friends in the dirty energy industry. They attempted the same thing after below-average job growth in May of this year, claiming that approval of the Keystone XL pipeline would be the job boon that Americans desperately need.

But Republicans in Washington didn’t wait for a bad jobs report before they started planning their dirty energy bonanza, but its likely they will use it as a catalyst to gain more support for their disastrous plans.

In mid June of this year, Republicans on the “House Energy Action Team” (HEAT) proposed a set of bills that would destroy many of the safeguards that are currently in place to protect our environment and our personal health in order to make things “easier” for businesses to create jobs without worrying about those pesky safety standards. What the package of legislation is really about is repaying HEAT members’ financiers from the dirty energy industry who stand to save a ton of cash by destroying regulations.

The legislation package would remove many current existing safeguards for environmental and public health until the unemployment rate drops below 6%, a rate that hasn’t been seen since July 2008, when it was 5.8%. Since that month four years ago, the rate has stayed consistently above 6%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


When I wrote about the legislative package back in June, I focused mainly on the ties to industry of the bills’ sponsors. Recently, the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards put together an analysis of the safeguards and regulations that the bills would removed if passed:
  

The House of Representatives will soon consider a radical bill proposed by Republican members: ‘‘Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act’’ (H.R. 4078). This bill is made up of provisions H.R. 4078, H.R. 4607, H.R. 3862, H.R. 373, H.R. 4377, H.R. 2308, and H.R. 1840 which would, in an unprecedented move halt all regulatory action on national safeguards that protect the health and safety of Americans and bolster the nation’s economy.

Combined, these provisions would halt or delay virtually ALL regulations and do absolutely nothing to stimulate the economy or new job opportunities. They would shut down crucial safeguards that give Americans confidence in the products at the grocery store, the safety of their workplaces, the cleanliness of the water system, the soundness of our financial system, and the safety of vital infrastructure…

Public Health and Clean Air – These bills would continue to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing standards defining power plants, industrial boilers, process heaters and cement plants compliance with the Clean Air Act. Those structures are the largest emitters of mercury and toxic air pollutants. Compliance would curb their harmful impact on the respiratory health of millions of Americans.

Food Safety – Each year, 1.2 million people get sick, 7,125 are hospitalized, and 134 die from foodborne illnesses contracted from contaminated produce. Illnesses and food recalls also hurt the U.S. agriculture and food industries. The Food Safety Modernization Act, passed with support from both industry and consumer groups, calls for new regulations on produce handling on large farms and an inspection system for foreign farms to be in place by 2013. Its implementation depends on rulemaking that would be blocked by the proposed bills.

Workplace Safety – Beryllium, a toxic substance (lung cancer and other fatal and chronic diseases) exposed to workers in the electronics, nuclear, and metalwork industries. Current1950s-based standards allow workers to continue to be exposed to levels higher than ruled safe for nuclear power plant workers. The three proposed bills would stop the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from updating exposure standards to protect all workers.

Energy and Environment – The proposed bills would block the U.S. Department of Energy from implementing the Energy Security and Independence Act, delaying for five years updates of energy efficiency standards for a wide range of products. The estimated lost savings for the U.S. economy would be $48 to $105 billion. The bills also would halt the Federal Trade Commission’s rulemaking for energy efficiency labeling designed to protect consumers from misleading and deceptive claims about product energy savings.
 

In addition to these measures, some of the bills in the package would reduce benefits for our veterans, and loosen the already lenient rules regarding the approval of medical devices in America.

If passed, these laws would sacrifice the lives and well being of American citizens based solely on the hope that companies will create more jobs. To the House Republicans who proposed this legislation, their faith in corporations to “do the right thing” is greater than their belief that every life is sacred and worth protecting.

But the most important thing to remember about their proposals is that they won’t work. As I have pointed out over the years, regulations are not destroying jobs, nor are they hindering job creation. In fact, tightening safeguards would actually lead to greater job creation than destroying regulations.

Talking points aside, House Republicans are also overlooking the fact that destroying safeguards will also have a devastating effect on the fragile U.S. economy. Studies tell us that for every dollar spent on safeguards and regulations, an economic benefit of between four and eight dollars ripples throughout the economy. To put it simply, every dollar spent on regulations has a minimum return of 400% for the U.S. economy. Any investor could see that this would be a wise decision.

In addition to the lost investments, we have to look at the jobs that would be lost by doing away with regulations. Delaying implementation, or doing away with completely, the Clean Air Act standards could cost our economy an estimated 1.5 million jobs.

And those numbers are just the ones on the surface. We would also have to factor in the economic impact of health and environmental degradation that would be placed on the economy if these safeguards were removed. It is a fact that U.S. taxpayers already pay for healthcare costs related to air pollution, estimated to be about $50 billion a year. Environmental costs shifted to taxpayers also total in the billions a year, as seen with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the Exxon Valdez spill (every disaster has costs that are shifted to taxpayers, those are just two of the largest examples.)

And again, all of these costs and dangers that will be imposed on the American public are only in the HOPE that corporate America will create more jobs. After analyzing all of the available information about regulations and job creation, its clear that repealing these safeguards will do little, if anything at all, to spur job growth in America. On the other hand, tightening these safeguards and fully implementing ones that have been delayed would provide an enormous benefit to both our health and our economy. But the dirty energy industry only thinks about their profits, not what happens in the world around them.

May 02 2012

17:56

Is Sustainable Development Viable?


Aspects of strategic and coordinated action for sustainable development:Although it is clear that growth within the current economic paradigm is environmentally unsustainable, it is less clear whether the adoption of sustainable development can save our planet from environmental collapse. Countries are aggressively trying to stimulate their economies and create new jobs while at the same time, it is becoming increasingly obvious that we urgently need to address a range of far-reaching environmental problems.

In 2011 the International Resource Panel, hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), warned that by 2050, the human race could be devouring 140 billion tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass per year – three times its current rate of consumption. The report demonstrated that most of this consumption comes from the developed world (up to 40 or more tons per person in some developed countries compared to an average of four tons per year for people in places like India).

Some believe that sustainable development could bring about meaningful change. Sustainable development focuses on reducing the amount of required resources through improved economic management, product design, and technology. Environmental sustainability emulates the biosphere and functions as part of the ecosystem. This means being efficient, adapting to local conditions and using sources of energy which are renewable. At its best, sustainability incorporates the concept of cradle-to-cradle design, which factors the entire life cycle.

Sustainable development supports economic growth. The Brundtland Report argued that economic growth was necessary for poorer nations to meet their needs; they also used this argument to support economic growth in all nations.

Criticisms of sustainable development

For many people concerned about ecological degradation, growth is an environmental anathema and sustainable development does not make sense. This idea was elaborated by Michael Redclift in his 2005 paper “Sustainable Development (1987–2005): an Oxymoron Comes of Age.”

A 1993 paper by Herman E. Daly and Kenneth N. Townsend argue that it is impossible for the world economy to grow its way out of poverty and environmental degradation. According to these authors, the term “sustainable growth”, when applied to the economy, is a “bad oxymoron.” The term sustainable development makes sense for the economy only if it is understood as development without growth. “To delude ourselves into believing that growth is still possible and desirable if only we label it “sustainable” or color it “green” will just delay the inevitable transition and make it more painful.” The authors advocate a policy for the U.S. and other industrialized countries that prevent growth by taxing resource extraction, especially energy, very heavily.

Environmental sustainability precludes fossil fuels

Sustainable economic growth is utterly impossible as long as oil, coal and natural gas provide nearly 88 percent of the world’s energy needs. According to EIA (the US Energy Information Administration), total world consumption of marketed energy will increase by 49 percent between 2007 to 2035. The International Energy Agency predicted that Chinese energy demand would soar 75 percent by 2035, accounting for more than a third of the growth in global consumption.

The most egregious source of energy is coal, in India, more than 50% of commercial energy demand is met with coal and according to 2008 statistics, coal accounts for 71 percent of China’s energy mix. The US is not much better with 23 percent of its total energy demand being met with coal. Economic growth that includes fossil fuels precludes the possibility of a livable planet.

Incorporating the environment into the economic system

For development to be truly sustainable, it must balance human welfare with the welfare of the planet. Sustainable development can avoid environmental degradation by integrating the environment into the economic system. Environmental economists argue that environmental degradation is a function of the failure of the market system to put a value on the environment.

Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and economic instruments offer a couple of ways in which environmental values could be incorporated into economic activities. Economic instruments include taxes and charges on polluters that aim to internalize environmental costs into the decisions of companies and individuals. This provides an incentive to curtail environmental degradation.

There are a number of other ways the environment could be factored into our economic decision-making. Measuring environmental damage includes the value of earnings lost through health problems associated with pollution. It also includes health care and the costs associated with decreased agricultural yields.

In such a system, valuing the environment must account for future generations of humans and other species. The cost of ecological destruction must be prohibitive and not limited to monetary costs. This translates to criminal sanctions including jail terms.

Can technology save us?

Technology is an important adjunct of sustainable development. Improving technology makes growth and environmental sustainability compatible. According to the Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences, economic growth can be made compatible with environmental enhancement, but “technologies affecting all societal activities must reflect the goals of sustainable economic development.”

Environmentalists Winin Pereira and Jeremy Seabrook (1991) point out that a high of living standard is unsustainable. They say: “

“Economic growth can be made compatible with environmental enhancement only if the emission of pollution is less than that which can be assimilated and transformed by the natural environment. In order for resources to be conserved, all articles must be manufactured so as to be fully recyclable. Further, they must be manufactured, transported, used, and recycled with energy from renewable sources only.”

The apparent conflict between growth and environmental sustainability may be at least partially addressed by new technological developments. A good example comes from recent advances in catalytic science.

“With the recent advent of molecular design techniques, the modernized form of this broadly applicable technological tool has the potential to change the face of the four fundamental needs of humanity–health care, food supply, energy, and materials. This can be done in a way that provides a path to environmentally sustainable development for all citizens of the planet.”

Ecological economics and decoupling

While conventional economics is concerned largely with economic growth and the efficient allocation of resources, ecological economics has the explicit goal of sustainable scale (rather than continual growth), fair distribution and efficient allocation.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development states that “business cannot succeed in societies that fail,” and societies that do not reduce their resource intensity are doomed to fail.

Ecological economics must reach far beyond the understanding of conventional economics and focus on people and nature.

In economic and environmental fields, the term decoupling is used to refer to the ability of an economy to grow without incurring corresponding increases in environmental pressure. An economy that is able to sustain GDP growth without having a negative impact on the environment is said to be decoupled.

We now have a leadership competency model for sustainability. The expansion of sustainable business opportunities can contribute to job creation.

Innovative economics internalizing ecosystems

There is no single economic answer to the environmental crisis we face. The closest thing we have to a useful approach is cultivating pragmatic innovation. Going forward, our economies must constantly adapt to meet present and future needs.

While some would like to do away with the concept of profit, this may not produce the results they seek.  Peter Drucker said that “profit for a company is like oxygen for a person. If you don’t have it, you’re out of the game. But if you think your life is about breathing you’re really missing something.”

From this standpoint, a business should aim to make a profit to ensure it is financially sustainable, but this should not be at the expense of the planet or the life forms that inhabit it.

We cannot continue to treat ecosystems as economic externalities. Conservation of resources is best served by putting a price on natural systems so that they are not overused and degraded. Internalizing these externalities entails using market strategies like ecotaxes and incentives, tradeable permits for carbon, and the encouragement of payment for ecosystem services.

Europe 2020

Europe 2020 is the EU’s sustainable development growth strategy. The EU wants to become a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy with high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion.

Concretely, the Union has set five ambitious objectives – on employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy – to be reached by 2020. This includes building a more competitive low-carbon economy that makes efficient, sustainable use of resources. It also involves protecting the environment, reducing emissions and preventing biodiversity loss.

The EU intends to boost sustainable growth through resource-efficiency in Europe. Economic growth will be decoupled from resource and energy use by:

  • reducing CO2 emissions
  • promoting greater energy security.
  • reducing the resource intensity of what we use and consume

ADB strategy 2020

ADB Strategy 2020 is Asia’s sustainable development growth strategy. ADB’s efforts in greening economic growth aim at promoting environmentally sustainable and inclusive growth while addressing climate change.

ADB is committed to doing a better job of managing biodiversity and natural resources. They realize that large-scale ecosystems are central to the future well-being of Asia-Pacific. They will focus on national leadership, innovative partnerships and integrated approaches.

ADB’s climate change program focuses on five region-wide priorities: (i) expanding the use of clean energy; (ii) encouraging sustainable transport and urban development; (iii) managing land use and forests for carbon sequestration; (iv) promoting climate-resilient development; and (v) strengthening related policies and institutions.

A range of approaches are necessary, including regulations, market-based instruments, voluntary schemes, and information disclosure. Environmental impact assessment and social safeguards processes are also important. In total, it is estimated that it will cost 8 trillion dollars in infrastructure investment to get to where they need to be.

Recognizing that many of the region’s critical ecosystems transcend political boundaries and that several pollution issues have a transboundary nature, governance arrangements at the regional and subregional level are also increasingly becoming a necessity.

This agenda is generally consistent with the green economy and green growth concepts as discussed in the Rio+20 process.

The Rio+ 20 Conference on Sustainable Development

The Rio+ 20 Conference on Sustainable Development provides a strategic opportunity for the global community to take stock of the current status of the environment and its links with supporting inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction.

The UNCSD will need to develop a new agreed vision and a set of solutions and mechanisms that can support and finance inclusive and environmentally sustainable growth. It is also important to develop mechanisms using innovative approaches that leverage both public financial resources and the private sector.  To achieve this goal, there will need to be incentives to help shift economies to a sustainable path. This may include removing harmful subsidies and providing tax breaks and other incentives.

Governments will need to work together in support of strengthening the environmentally advantageous technologies of developing nations. This includes incentives such as market-opening measures, intellectual-property protection, support for universities and other research institutions.

Governments will also have to pursue arrangements for monitoring and assessing environmental conditions and their economic implications.

Sustainable Development is an Ethical and Social Issue

There are important ethical and political and social dimensions associated with sustainable development. Government incentives, market based mechanisms and even punitive measures are not adequate in and of themselves. Incorporating environmental sustainability on a broad scale is also a matter of cultural and social change. Ultimately, it reflects a dramatically transformed value system which acknowledges the overarching value of the natural world.

One need only look at the domestic unrest in so many European countries to realize that growth (or the lack thereof) is also a social issue. As William Rees has said: “economic growth is a major instrument of social policy. By sustaining hope for improvement, it relieves the pressure for policies aimed at more equitable distribution of wealth.”

We need to develop new ethics and new forms of social decision-making that integrate the environment. We also need incentives to stimulate technological innovation.

It is not certain that sustainable development will succeed, but it may be the best chance we have not only to save our economies but to save our planet from an environmental apocalypse.

——————-
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

March 13 2012

21:05

Study Warns of Economic Damage in a Keystone Pipeline Spill

More than a million people work in agricultural or tourism jobs in the six states along Keystone XL's proposed route, and the economic costs could be considerable if a major spill were to occur, researchers at Cornell warn.

March 07 2012

22:55

What Makes Gasoline Prices Go Up?

Cognitive dissonance persists on the presidential campaign trail and in Congress, but some energy statistics are telling.

February 29 2012

19:39

The Green Economy is the Right Solution for our Troubled Times


A Green Economy can lead us out of the troubles we now face both socially, environmentally, and economically The green economy offers a powerful solution to both a warming planet and economic volatility. There are a host of political and economic crises in the world today. The Eurozone crisis is expected to be followed by a European recession. In China we are seeing strong evidence of a slowdown and many are calling for major economic reforms. Finally, the hope and promise of the “Arab Spring’ has given way to a winter of discontent, as the Arab world suffers due to a weak economy and high unemployment.

Amidst all this economic uncertainty, global warming continues unabated. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said all 11 years of the 21st century rank among the 13 warmest. NASA noted 9 of the top 10 warmest years in its record have occurred since 2000. The La Nina effect was the warmest on record in 2011, according to data from NOAA and NASA. The increasing probability of massive flooding caused by melting Greenland and Antarctic icecaps are creating real concerns about the future of the planet.

The string of warm years in the last decade is linked to rapidly increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases. In a press release, NASA wrote “Higher temperatures today are largely sustained by increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide.” As the world’s economies get stronger, energy demands will keep increasing and carbon emissions will keep rising.

As reported in a Green Energy Intelligence Report, it is predicted that by 2030, U.S. energy related CO2 emissions will amount to 6.9 billion metric tons (“MT”) under a “business-as-usual” scenario. Worldwide, energy-related CO2 emissions are projected to increase from 28.1 billion MT in 2005 to 42.3 billion MT in 2030. Together with non-energy related CO2 eq emissions (deforestation, industrial production processes, etc.), total CO2 eq emissions are projected to reach 62 giga (billion) tons (“Gt”) by 2030 (McKinsey June 2008).

The IEA’s chief economist has said that governments only have five years to avoid more than 2°C of global mean temperature rise. Extreme weather events add to the data and send an easy to read message that the time has arrived for a new economic framework. According to NOAA, there were 10 massive weather disasters in the U.S. last year, each exceeding a billion dollars. The unprecedented weather extremes include the following estimates of death and damage:

  • Hurricane Irene: 50 deaths and $7 billion
  • Upper Midwest flooding along the Missouri River: $2 billion
  • Mississippi River flooding in spring and summer: $4 billion
  • Drought and heat waves in Texas and Oklahoma: $5 billion
  • Tornadoes in the Midwest and Southeast in May: 177 deaths and $7 billion
  • Tornadoes in the Ohio Valley and Southeast in April: 32 deaths and $9 billion
  • Tornadoes in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania in April: $2 billion
  • Tornadoes in the Northeast and Midwest April 8-11: $2.2 billion
  • Tornadoes in central and southern states April 4-5: $2.3 billion
  • Blizzard in January from Chicago to the Northeast: 36 deaths and $2 billion

The costs of extreme weather are astronomical, and it is predicted they will get much worse if we do not address the anthropogenic greenhouse gases that cause climate change. We need a framework to address both the economic and environmental ills that the world is facing. We also need a means of increasing our energy supply without increasing our greenhouse gas emissions. The Green Economy offers the solutions we so desperately need.

According to a July, 2011 report from the Brookings Institution, 2.7 million Americans work at green jobs – more than work in the fossil fuel industry. The US Conference of Mayors estimates that number will almost triple by 2040.

The green jobs study by the Brookings Institute suggests the U.S. should put primary emphasis on new, technology-intensive, energy-related sectors. The study by the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program is called “Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment”  The chief conclusion they came to is that the driving force behind jobs and the growth of the U.S. clean economy over the last decade has been emerging energy technologies.  This is a conclusion echoed in Google’s energy innovation report.

Green jobs are also quality jobs with median wages 13 percent higher than the average. Investment in clean energy projects yields more than three times as many jobs as investing in fossil fuels. Although the green economy is producing results now, the growth potential is staggering.

The failure of the US Congress to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation has slowed the growth of the green economy, but it is not too late. A good example of what can be done even in the absence of federal government legislation comes from a Los Angeles cleantech business incubator (LACI). The LACI approach identifies local talent, nurtures it, and helps it get to market, resulting in more jobs and a bigger green economy in Los Angeles and beyond.

A UNEP study reveals that investing in the green economy will spur growth. Contrary to conservative belief, the greening of economies is not generally a drag on growth but rather a new engine of growth and a net generator of decent jobs. The Green Economy Report is compiled by UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative. The report, called Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication, recommends spending $1.3 trillion a year on the green economy.

Pavan Sukhdev, head of UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative said, “Governments have a central role in changing laws and policies, and in investing public money in public wealth to make the transition possible. By doing so, they can also unleash the trillions of dollars of private capital in favour of a green economy,”

——————-

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Everything’s Cool

January 30 2012

23:23

Weighing Tariffs on Chinese Solar Panels

A preliminary finding by the Commerce Department suggests that if penalties are levied, they could be retroactive.

January 13 2012

20:53

US Chamber of Commerce Jobs Plan Rehashes Old, Debunked Talking Points

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released its “The State of American Business 2012” plan this week, outlining their own vision of how to create jobs in America. There were no surprises in Chamber President Tom Donohue’s address to business leaders. He simply rehashed the same tired talking points that we’ve seen from them for years.

In addition to enacting what they call a “globally competitive tax code” and “fixing our broken immigration system,” the Chamber threw out some classic gems that persist despite being able to withstand the truth test. From their newly launched FreeEnterprise.com website:

Produce American Energy and Rebuild Infrastructure. Approve the Keystone XL pipeline to put up to 250,000 Americans to work over the life of the project while preventing the EPA from enacting new regulations on fracking that sabotage a natural gas revolution. Complete Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, which is more than four years delayed, to strengthen our aviation system and deploy the NextGen air traffic control system. Renew surface transportation funding legislation before it expires in March and invest in water infrastructure.

Advance Regulatory and Legal Reform. Pass the Administrative Procedure Act to restore sound science, quality data, and common sense to the regulatory system while curbing regulatory overreach by EPA and the National Labor Relations Board. Stop the expansion of liability at home and abroad that is sucking the vitality out of our nation’s job creators.

Put more bluntly, this is the Chamber's message: Do away with environmental and health protections and let the same companies that brought us the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and countless other "accidents" expand oil drilling, fracking, and other dirty energy extraction methods in every possible place. "Trust us, we're experts," they say.


Here are a few excerpts from Donohue’s address, the full text of which can be found here:

To tap our energy resources, we must speed up permitting and end many of the restrictions that have put key areas off-limits. Instead of handpicking a few technologies, we must harness all our resources, traditional and alternative—while expanding nuclear power and driving greater efficiency.

Our biggest and most reliable foreign energy supplier is Canada. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would bring Canadian oil sands down to our Gulf Coast refineries and to other destinations along the way.

This project has passed every environmental test. There is no legitimate reason—none at all—to subject it to further delay. Labor unions and the business community alike are urging President Obama to act in the best interests of our national security and our workers and approve the pipeline. We can put 20,000 Americans to work right away and up to 250,000 over the life of the project

The regulatory avalanche confronting our job creators is unprecedented. The Labor Department has 100 rulemakings in the pipeline. Dodd-Frank requires 447 rules, 63 reports, and 59 studies. The health care law established 159 new agencies, panels, commissions, and regulatory bodies. EPA has some 200 regulations in the works. And the business community must contend with a National Labor Relations Board that is clearly tilted toward the unions.

This adds up to a big drag on our economy.

The industry has long attempted to convince Americans that enforcing environmental protections and public health and labor standards are stifling our job market. No matter how often they repeat those talking points, they simply are not true. The last few months have provided us with a flurry of reports showing that enforcing environmental rules would help create more jobs than allowing the energy industry free rein to pollute and exploit our lives and lands.

As recently as last week, a new report by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation showed that enforcing an EPA standard to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay would create more jobs (permanent jobs, at that) than the Keystone XL Pipeline. Contrast that with TransCanada’s own admission that the Keystone XL project would only create between 6,000 and 6,500 jobs and that most would only last 2 years. (Among many reports debunking even this estimate, see our previous coverage of the Cornell report.)

But those facts haven’t stopped the U.S Chamber from tweeting earlier this week that building the Keystone XL pipeline would create as many as 250,000 American jobs:

Photobucket

From fracking to air pollution standards, the dirty energy industry has consistently and predictably distorted the truth about job creation. And even with the wealth of information pointing out that their claims are false, the U.S. Chamber’s recent regurgitation of these same, tired talking points shows us that the lie is here to stay.

The question is, when will this blatant misinformation and those who spout it be held accountable?

January 10 2012

23:41

The Fracking Job Creation Myth

The prospect of job growth in the United States has been a major selling point for industry in the four years since the beginning of the recession. And even with positive gains being made in the job sector over the last year and a half, unemployment is still hovering around 8.5%. That is why unemployed Americans are still eager to jump onto plans that promise to create much-needed jobs in our country.

The dirty energy industry is well aware of the fact that promising jobs in these times can get you ahead, and they are using this to their advantage. In an attempt to push for increased hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the industry is touting the alleged job creation benefits of the practice. They are pitching fracking as a snake oil salesman would pitch a “cure-all tonic,” claiming that allowing them to continue fracking and drilling activities will help our economy by creating jobs and it will help our country by solving our energy problems.

But fracking has been going on for decades, the industry likes to remind us, although it has picked up tremendous steam in the last 5 years with the advent of directional drilling. So where are all those hundreds of thounsands of jobs that we’ve been promised? The answer to that question is simple: They don’t exist - At least not in the numbers the industry wants us to believe.

Helene Jorgensen from the Center for Economic and Policy Research outlines how the dirty energy industry has tried to hoodwink the American public:

In an intensive lobbying campaign to influence a skeptical public’s opinions about fracking, the gas industry has commissioned a number of economic studies that find huge job gains from fracking. A recent study by the economic forecasting company IHS Global Insight Inc., paid for by the America’s Natural Gas Alliance, projects that fracking will create 1.1 million jobs in the United States by year 2020.

However, a closer read of the study reveals that the analysis also projects that fracking will actually lead to widespread job losses in other sectors of the economy, and would result in slightly lower overall employment levels the following 10 years, compared to what it would be if fracking were restricted. In another study, commissioned by the Marcellus Shale Coalition, researchers with Penn State University estimated that gas drilling would support 216,000 jobs in Pennsylvania alone by 2015. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show employment in the oil and gas industry to be 4,144 in Pennsylvania.

Jorgensen points out that Pennsylvania is one of the most actively fracked states in the country, and they provide an excellent example of the real job creation associated with fracking:

What the data tell us is that fracking has created very few jobs. In fact, employment in five northeast Pennsylvania counties (McKean, Potter, Tioga, Bradford and Susquehanna) with high drilling activity declined by 2.7 percent. Of course, the economy was in a recession, and it is possible that employment would have decreased by more had it not been for fracking. To evaluate this, one can look at the employment trend in five adjacent New York counties (Allegany, Steuben, Chemung, Tioga and Broome) which had a moratorium on fracking. By assuming that the change in employment in the five PA counties would have been the same as in the five NY counties, a baseline for employment can be established if no hydraulic fracturing had occurred. In the five NY counties, employment declined by 5.2 percent over the three year period.

Had employment declined by the same rate in the PA counties as in the NY counties since 2007, employment would have been 51,950 instead of 53,300 in 2010. This suggests that hydraulic fracturing contributed to the creation of around 1,350 jobs – this includes both direct jobs in the gas industry, indirect jobs in the supply chain and induced jobs from spending by workers and landowners. (An industry-funded study by the Public Policy Institute of New York projects that the same drilling level would create 62,620 jobs in New York).

Obviously, the practice does require a human workforce, but not nearly as many people as the industry would have us believe. For example, an industry-funded study tells us that opening up new areas of Ohio for fracking would create as many as 200,000 new jobs, similar to the projections that never materialized in Pennsylvania.

According to Jorgensen’s piece, which echoes what Food & Water Watch found in their report, the few jobs that are created are actually outsourced to already-employed oil industry workers from states like Texas and Oklahoma, instead of providing new jobs for local citizens. Nearly 80% of fracking jobs are outsourced in this manner.

But this new information is hardly shocking to those familiar with the dirty energy industry’s propaganda tactics regarding job creation and job loss in America. In addition to the myth being pushed about fracking creating jobs, the dirty energy industry and corporate-friendly politicians have been pushing the erroneous talking point that regulations (or other forms of “government interference) are killing jobs in America. That particular talking point has been debunked by more than a half dozen reports in recent months. Our own reporting on the subject is here. If that isn’t enough, you can check here, here, here, here, here, and here.

December 05 2011

14:35

Are Parks a Boon to State Economies?

Economists urge the Obama administration and Congress to create more protected preserves, arguing that local economies will benefit.

November 11 2011

18:51

Koch Brothers Behind Push To Dismantle EPA

During last week’s Americans For Prosperity (AFP) event, a common theme kept creeping into the speakers’ presentations: Dismantle the EPA. And as the major funders of AFP, Charles and David Koch are the ones pulling the strings of the American elected officials who keep clamoring for an end to all environmental protections.

Since the new Republican-controlled Congress took over earlier this year, calls for the EPA to be disbanded and general attacks on the agency have been constant. In the last 11 months, we have covered those stories here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Those in favor of saying goodbye to the EPA include presidential candidates like Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, elected officials like Republican Representatives Mike Rogers and David McKinley, and even media figures like Fox News’s John Stossel. The attacks include false claims that the agency is destroying jobs, or just general claims that the agency’s usefulness has run its course.

But when you look past those claims, the money from the Koch brotherss and their organizations is all that you can see.


In addition to GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain pledging his loyalty to the Kochs at last week’s event, we were also privy to a rousing anti-EPA speech by Republican representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas. As Think Progress reports, Pompeo told the crowd the following about his efforts to completely strip the EPA of their funding:

“We’re trying. Indeed, I personally tried. … We’ve got a Senate that has a deeply different worldview, and there my bill sits. We won’t be able to slow down the growth of the EPA dramatically until we change the view of folks in Congress, and I speak mostly of the Senate here, and we get a new leader in the White House.”

Lee Fang from Think Progress has detailed Rep. Pompeo’s connections to the Kochs, who have personally been involved with helping Pompeo climb his way into the top 1% of income earners:

Pompeo developed much of his wealth from a firm he founded, Thayer Aerospace, which he ran with investment funds from Koch Industries. According to a December 11, 1998 article in the Wichita Business Journal, “[Pompeo's] company’s capital base is drawn in part from Wichita’s Koch Venture Capital, a division of Koch Industries.” Pompeo sold Thayer in 2006.

Pompeo still relies on Koch for his private wealth. After the sale of Thayer, Pompeo became the President of Sentry International, a business specializing in the manufacture and sale of equipment used in oilfields. Sentry International is a partner to Koch Industries through its Brazilian distributor, GTF Representacoes & Consultoria.

Pompeo won his Republican primary largely with the support of Koch Industries’ PAC, which gave him one of his largest endorsements in March. Despite the fact that Koch Industries is the recipient of tens of millions in federal contracts, Pompeo boasted about the endorsement: “The employees of the Koch Companies have jobs here in the Wichita because of their own hard work and creativity, not because a federal agency deemed it to be so.”

With $31,400 in contributions from KOCHPAC, Koch Industries is by far the greatest contributor to Pompeo’s campaign.

So to be clear, Congressman Pompeo owes not only his election but his personal fortune to the Koch brothers, and now that he is in a position of power, he is doing his best to push their agenda within the chambers of Congress.

The money in politics database organization Open Secrets has a lengthy list of specific legislation that Koch Industries has lobbied for and against. On the "against" list, you’ll find legislation such as the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 – a bill that would have put Americans to work building a green energy infrastructure; the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act – again, a bill that would have created green energy jobs and infrastructure; and the Clean Air Protection Act – a bill that would limit the amount of acceptable emissions into our atmosphere.

The Koch brothers, through their PACs and other organizations, have funded numerous efforts to defeat legislation aimed at reducing pollution or protecting the environment. After all, their companies don't pay the real cost for the pollution they release.

That’s why it is important to follow the money on these stories, especially when dealing with Congress members who are attempting to dismantle the few environmental protections that are currently in place, like Mike Pompeo. Because more often than not, these efforts are supported by fat cat checks from a member of the Koch family.

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

September 07 2011

18:49

Obama Can Regulate the Environment and Create Green Jobs


President Obama should focus on creating green jobs and supporting environmental regulation. Jobs and a healthy environment are not mutually exclusiveAs U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to unveil his jobs and economic plan, his popularity is at an all-time low. Support from the President’s base has been eroded by the two week long protest against the Keystone XL pipeline and profound disappointment about the abandonment of stricter ozone regulations.

From the end of August to the beginning of September, a total of 1,252 protesters were arrested in front of the White House for opposing the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Those arrested included 350.org’s Bill McKibben and NASA climate scientist James Hansen. The tar sands pipeline could galvanize U.S. action on climate because many believe we should be working to reduce the demand for oil rather than increase the supply.

The Obama administration decision to abandon stricter ozone pollution standards pleased Republicans and business groups who say environmental regulations kill jobs. However, the research shows that regulations are not killing small business.

Previous regulations, like amendments to the Clean Air Act, have resulted in far lower costs and job losses than indicated by industry and the GOP. When the EPA first proposed amendments to the Clean Air Act aimed at reducing acid rain caused by power plant emissions, the electric utility industry warned that it would cost $7.5 billion and tens of thousands of jobs. But as reported in the New York Times, Dallas Burtraw, an economist at Resources for the Future, indicated that the cost has been closer to $1 billion. The EPA cited studies showing that the law had been a modest net creator of jobs through industry spending on compliance technology.The costs of regulation should be factored alongside reduced mortality and morbidity. The New York Times reports that clean air regulations have reduced infant mortality and increased housing prices according to research by Greenstone.

The Sierra Club indicates that half of U.S. families live in communities where the air is unsafe to breathe. According to the Sierra Club, the new standard for smog would have prevented up to 12,000 premature deaths, 5,300 heart attacks and tens of thousands of asthma attacks and other serious respiratory illnesses each year. These protections from smog would have saved billions of dollars in health costs.

Countries around the world are investing in cleaner air and a healthier environment. According to ENN, the 2011 Global Green Economy Index (GGEI) show that expert practitioners in the green economy rank Germany as the top overall national green performer while a new index places New Zealand on top. The UK has also announced its national sustainability agenda.

Many other countries are getting very serious about their focus on sustainability. Bolivia forwarded a piece of legislation called la Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra (the Law of Mother Earth), which encourages a radical shift in conservation, enforces new control measures on industry, and reduces environmental destruction.

Bolivia’s law redefines natural resources as blessings and confers the same rights to nature as to human beings, including: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered. Perhaps the most controversial point is the right “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities”.

Ecuador has enshrined similar aims in its Constitution, other nations have also shown interest in this approach including Nicaragua, Venezuela, Antigua, Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

In the summer of 2011, politicians in Turkey sought a constitution that would afford rights to the Earth. Even the African nation of Nigeria is working hard to protect their environment. To help with this task, Nigeria created the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) which was created to help enforce environmental laws, standards and regulations in the country.

In the U.S., the preoccupation with jobs overshadows any interest in the environment. When President Obama addressed a crowd of more than 10,000 people in Detroit on Labor Day, they were heard chanting “More good jobs.” During the speech, the President intimated what he’ll be saying in his major jobs address to the joint session of Congress.

“We’ve got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding,” Obama said. “I still believe both parties can work together to solve our problems. We’re going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party.”

A move toward stricter governmental regulation would help green industries to grow and provide jobs. Despite the prevailing public mood, job creation is intimately connected with environmental protection. But it is hard to imagine that Republicans will work with the President to pass any legislation, particularly environmental legislation. According to the Presidential Climate Action Project, there is a great deal the President can do without congressional input. In 2010 they provided a report (pdf) that lists a large number of actions that can be implemented with executive orders.

“What we’re saying is Congress has decided not to act, but [Obama] can do so,” former Sen. Gary Hart, a Colorado Democrat and a co-chairman of the group, said.

It’s not as if Obama has failed to make progress on climate issues. In October 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance. This EO calls on Federal agencies to set and meet specific sustainability related targets throughout their operations. As part of this undertaking, GSA is leveraging its purchasing power to promote sustainable procurement. More recently, the Obama administration developed landmark fuel efficiency standards for vehicles by regulating cars and light trucks as well as trucks and buses.

Despite the lack of legislative progress on the environment, the Obama administration has done more to promote renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions than any previous government. However, Obama’s efforts have been impeded by the unrelenting multi-front manipulation of powerful interests associated with the old energy economy, including the oil industry. Further, the Republican controlled House is working hard to dismantle the EPA.

It comes down to the choice between temporary jobs of the past which are ruining the environment or permanent jobs of the future that protect the planet.

Republicans and ill-informed members of the business community are indicating that now is not the time for environmental regulations or investment in sustainability. In 2008, some feared that a recession would undermine the growth of sustainability, but current events appear to indicate otherwise. Difficult economic times auger greater efficiency, and a weak economy is also the reason why economists argue that massive green infrastructure investments may be the best way to strengthen the economy and create jobs.

A President’s popularity is a function of jobs and the best way to create jobs is to enact regulations and invest in the green economy.
——————–
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Austin Post and Take Part

Enhanced by Zemanta

August 30 2011

13:15

Death Of A Talking Point? Regulations Actually Create Jobs

For years, the Republican Party in America has been on a crusade against what they call “job killing regulations.” A quick Google search for the phrase “job killing regulations” returns 368,000 results – many from official Republican Party sources and some others attempting to debunk this talking point.

The phrase “Job killing regulations” has been a consistent battle cry for GOP Congressmembers in their war against workplace safety and environmental protections. True to form, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) echoed this sentiment on Monday with his reference to “job-destroying regulations” in a memo about the Republican plan to further gut the Environmental Protection Agency.

While this talking point is used to berate a lot of different government protections, from checks and balances applied to Wall Street, to product safety laws, to measures safeguarding consumers from dangerous chemicals in food and pharmaceuticals, and so forth.

But most often, the perjorative “job-killing regulations” talking point is used to describe the actions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) And it has resonated extremely well among an American public that is currently suffering from a severe lack of jobs. As of July 2011, we have an unemployment rate of 9.1%, resulting in almost 14 million Americans looking, but unable to find, a job. For a populace that desperately wants to work but is unable to do so, scapegoating “regulations” has been a very powerful and effective narrative.

Unfortunately for the Republican Party, these “job killing regulations” are a myth. There is no empirical data to back up their claims, but there is a wealth of information available showing that regulations – all regulations – actually promote job growth and put Americans back to work. A new report by Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) delivers the latest blow to this popular talking point, demonstrating a direct correlation between environmental regulations and job growth. NESCAUM looked at the Northeast and found that by enacting stricter fuel economy standards and pursuing cleaner forms of energy, more Americans would be put back to work.

From the NESCAUM study:

Employment increases by 9,490 to 50,700 jobs.

Gross regional product, a measure of the states’ economic output, increases by 2.1 billion to 4.9 billion.

Household disposable income increases by 1 billion to 3.3 billion.

Gasoline and diesel demand drops 12 to 29 percent.

Carbon pollution from transportation is cut by 5 to 9 percent.

And this is just for eleven states in the Northeast. A similar trend has been verified in California, where the standards set forth by NESCAUM are already in place.

But in the “Republicans Against Science” age, one study is certainly not enough to undo the damage that this “job killing regulation” GOP talking point has done to America, even when there are numerous other studies to back it up. Increased fuel economy standards already led to the creation of more than 155,000 U.S. jobs, according to the United Auto Workers union.

Last year, while Senate Democrats worked to pass sweeping environmental protection legislation, reports showed that the proposed efforts to protect the environment and invest in green technologies would have provided a boost to the economy by creating several hundred thousand much-needed jobs for out of work Americans.

But even though some of this information has been available to the public for years, many people still believe that any form of environmental protection will come at the expense of American jobs. The reason behind this mass ignorance once again lies with the GOP, which has deployed one of the most powerful echo chambers on the planet, consistently repeating the lie about “job killing regulations” over and over again. Unchallenged in their Fox News and right wing radio echo chambers, Republicans work to convince Americans that they have to choose between protecting the environment or the economy. They are aided by a network of industry front groups funded by polluting companies like ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

During a recent GOP presidential debate, candidate Michelle Bachmann expressed her disdain for the EPA:

“I would begin with the EPA, because there is no other agency like the EPA. It should really be renamed the job-killing organization of America.”

See how she used the “job killing” catchphrase? That was not an accident. Frank Luntz would be proud of the message discipline.

Another GOP presidential hopeful, Newt Gingrich, has said that he would completely do away with the EPA, a sentiment echoed by numerous GOP elected officials. The New York Times recently ran a headline declaring that bashing the EPA was the new “theme” of the 2012 GOP presidential race.

But it isn’t just elected GOP officials and big corporations repeating the talking point. So-called “independent” bloggers and reporters have taken up the mantle of attacking environmental protection as well. A recent piece cross-posted on BigHealthReport.com read: “Obama’s EPA Is Killing More Jobs than Economy Can Create.”

Here are a few comments from that article showing that this talking point is resonating quite well with some Americans:

Rudloph
August 27, 2011 at 5:14 pm
The ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION AGENCY is useless, it just makes our economy worse. Their whole existence depends on pollution and bad mouthing it.

Carolyn Kane
August 27, 2011 at 10:45 am
I am always amazed at how much power the E.P.A. has gained in the U.S.A. none of these people were ever voted in yet they control every part of our lives. I think it is time for people to start looking at everything that they do and if it is even legal.

Gary
August 27, 2011 at 12:13 pm
No surprise here. Does anybody really believe that Obama is serious on creating jobs. He is intent on destroying everything possible. Part of the Muslim plan.

Higgs
August 26, 2011 at 10:24 pm
Uh, the EPA and their regulations didn’t clean up the enviroment, advances in technology caused the decrease of pollutants released into our air and water. Now, the EPA is becoming to the “regulation world” as what unions have become to the working world. Both were needed in the beginning, but now they both are one part of the “big government” ideal of the socialists in Washington.

The list could go on and on. But not only were these commenters going after the EPA, they also re-hashed numerous other GOP talking points from the last few years. You’ll notice that they discuss the “Socialists in Washington” and one even makes the claim that Obama is a Muslim.

This shows just how powerful the GOP’s echo chamber is in American politics, and how selective people are when it comes to picking news sources. After all, there is plenty of credible, easily-accessible information to debunk “job killing regulations” and other talking points.

But if people don’t actively search out the facts after watching Fox or listening to Americans For Prosperity, the echo chamber has done its job misleading the American people. It’s immoral and unethical behavior, and that’s the only job we ought to be killing off.

August 24 2011

19:07

Gas Is Cheaper, but We're Still Driving Less

The latest weekly report from MasterCard shows that gasoline consumption is down in the United States despite a recent drop in prices.

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.
<!--break-->
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 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.
<!--break-->
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].

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl