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March 01 2013

20:17
13:13

February 28 2013

18:53

European Climate Official Urges Keystone XL Veto

Killing a 1,700-mile pipeline intensely opposed by the environmentally minded would send "a very, very interesting global signal,” Connie Hedegaard says.
01:07

Shell Backs Off From Arctic Drilling

A series of accidents prompts the company to indicate that it is not yet ready to resume drilling operations in the region.

August 28 2012

17:53

Romney's "Oil Above All" Energy Plan Short on Variety, and on Energy



Last Thursday, Mitt Romney presented his “oil above all” energy plan, in which he promised “North American energy independence” by 2020. Far from comprehensive, the plan echoes the familiar “Drill, Baby, Drill” mantra from the 2008 presidential campaign, and offers no energy strategy beyond increasing domestic production of oil and gas, and increased access to Canadian tar sands crude.

Proving his devotion to "oil above all" was the graph that the presidential hopeful presented while unveiling his plan to a "modest crowd" in New Mexico. As far as graphics go, it's  confused and misleading, so let me walk you through it in case you missed CNN's live coverage.

Though it's titled "North American Oil Production: Energy Independence by 2020," the demand line represents only the United States' oil needs. Hey, at least the Romney team doesn't anticipate our oil consumption to rise over the next eight years.


The bar on the left represents the roughly 15 million barrels per day that the U.S. produces, and the roughly 7 million barrels per day that we import.

Each bar to the right represents a theoretical production or import "gain" that could be achieved by 2020 under Romney's plan. Another 2 million barrels per day from unrestricted offshore drilling. Another 2 million barrels per day from "tight oil" or shale oil that can only be recovered through fracking.  Another 1 million barrels per day from unrestricted drilling in Alaska. Increased production of natural gas liquids and biofuels, a head scratcher since this graph is supposedly about "oil production." Then, the tentative imports from Canada and, to a lesser and less certain degree, Mexico.

This “oil above all” plan was announced just two days after Romney attended an industry fundraiser that helped to raise $7 million for his campaign.

The 21-page “energy policy white paper” that officially defines the plan bears the clear imprint of shale oil billionaire and top Romney energy advisor, Harold Hamm. Hamm stands to benefit greatly from the transfer of control of energy development projects from the federal government to states, which generally have more relaxed permitting processes for exploration and development of oil and gas resources.

Besides “empowering states to control onshore energy development,” Romney’s plan calls for rapid expansion of offshore drilling and rapid, rubber-stamp approval of new fossil fuel pipelines, like the Keystone XL, from Canadian tar sands sources.

The energy plan does not mention “climate change," nor are the words or concepts of energy efficiency and conservation anywhere to be seen.

Regardless of how you personally feel about an energy “plan” that treats oil drilling as a cure-all for America’s energy challenges, it’s worthwhile to take a look at the numbers to see just how realistic the plan actually is.

Even if there weren’t grave climate and environmental implications for drilling every last drop of American oil, just how far would that get us to actual “energy independence”?


Let’s start by looking at the proven reserves of petroleum on American lands and offshore.


Proven American Petroleum Reserves

According to the Energy Information Agency’s latest numbers, there are 25.2 billion barrels of oil in proven U.S. reserves.

At 2010 levels of consumption (6.049 billion barrels/year), those proven reserves would last a little over 4 years.

Let’s be clear that these “proven reserves” numbers are constantly changing, as they represent only, according to the EIA, “the volumes that geologic and engineering data demonstrate with reasonable certainty to be recoverable in future years from known reservoirs under existing economic and operating conditions.”

In other words, “proven reserves” are the stashes of oil that are within our grasp — those that have already been discovered and measured and that some company already has a claim on.

On top of these “proven reserves,” there are the greater volumes of oil “resources.” Estimates of U.S. oil resources vary enormously, but let’s use a Congressional Research Service report (pdf) from December of last year that Romney's energy plan itself cites as proof of America’s vast domestic supplies.

That report, U.S. Fossil Fuel Resources: Terminology, Reporting, and Summary (pdf), which describes quite clearly the differences between resources and reserves and the feasibility of extracting various sources, finds a total of roughly 140 billion barrels of oil that they define as “undiscovered technically recoverable resources.”

Add those to the 25.2 billion barrels that we know we have, and that’s a total of 162 billion barrels of oil that we could possibly drill, to say nothing of the economics or the environmental or climate impacts.

Those 162 billion barrels would last the United States under 27 years at 2010 levels of consumption.

Of course, Romney was careful to state that his plan is one for “North American energy independence,” emphasizing his intentions to immediately approve the Keystone XL pipeline and deepen America’s reliance on foreign oil from our friendly neighbors up north.

So what of those Canadian tar sands? There’s no question that there is an immense volume of crude that could be refined out of the vast Athabasca tar sands reserves. Again, this analysis is only of the numbers, and not to even get into the considerable climate and environmental implications.

The most ambitious estimates from the oil industry-friendly think tank Institute for Energy Research guesses that there are 320 billion barrels worth. But it’s still incredibly expensive and energy intensive to turn that tar sands into usable crude, and production is neither happening as fast as Romney’s plan demands, nor is it something that an American president would have any control over.

To wit: according to the government of Alberta, tar sands production is expected to increase from about 1.3 million barrels/day in 2008 to 3 million barrels/day in 2018.

Yet according to the chart that Romney pointed to throughout his presentation, it looks like he is counting on roughly 4-5 million barrels/day of Canadian crude by 2020. By even the most ambitious estimations, the total volume of tar sands crude produced will be 5 million barrels/day by 2010. In other words, Romney’s plan calls for 80-100 percent (or more!) of Canada’s tar sands crude to be consumed by Americans in 2010.

Finally, Romney repeatedly claimed that his energy plan would “lower energy prices” in the U.S., a claim that is demonstrably false. Oil prices are set on a global market, and that, as the Associated Press proved with a statistical analysis earlier this year, there’s “no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump.”

The only realistic way to lower oil prices in the U.S., which consumes just under one-quarter of the world’s oil, is to reduce demand.

Curiously absent from Romney’s energy plan is any mention of doing that. It’s not hard to find painless, economically-viable ways to do it.

Look no further than the Obama administration's new fuel economy standards that Congressional Republicans are fighting tooth and nail. If enacted, these rules would save the average driver somewhere on the order of $500-600 per year, would create around 700,000 jobs, and — most relevant to this discussion — reduce American oil demand by roughly 2.2 million barrels per day by 2025.

That’s more than all the oil that Romney plans on getting from additional offshore drilling, or from shale oil, and more than twice as much as he hopes to get from Alaska, in his “oil above all” plan. 

Why has it become fashionable among the GOP to completely ignore the enormous potential to reduce oil demand through efficiency and conservation?

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 25 2012

11:00

Keystone XL Pipeline To Take Center Stage At Republican National Convention

Over the next few days, Republican lawmakers, Party officials, delegates, and supporters will gather in Tampa, Florida for the Republican National Convention. During their weeklong convention, we can expect to hear a lot of debunked talking points, particularly about the need to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.

For more than a year, Republican lawmakers in the U.S. have been pushing for approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline, while completely ignoring the environmental risks that would come along with the plan to pipe dangerous DilBit from the Alberta tar sands south to the Gulf Coast.

In addition to ignoring the risks, Republicans have vastly overstated the alleged “benefits” of the pipeline, which they claim would create thousands of jobs, lower energy prices, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. That last claim is ironic, as the pipeline would carry foreign fuel from Canada, already the largest exporter of fuel to the U.S. Americans certainly love Canada as a neighbor, but it's still technically a foreign country and its ultimate goal is to reach foreign markets in Asia and elsewhere, not the United States.

Bold Nebraska has compiled a list of the possible topic areas to be discusses regarding the pipeline, as well as the truth about the consequences of the pipeline. Here are some of the talking points they are expecting, as well as the fact-based counter arguments:

Many Republicans and Keystone XL pipeline supporters like to say that the Keystone XL pipeline will lower gas prices. The following sorts of statements may be thrown around at the Republican convention, even though pipeline supporters have been quieter on the subject since gas prices have been lower all summer and have only started to rise again because of a recent pipeline spill in Wisconsin and refinery fire in California.

Reports have shown that not only will the Keystone XL pipeline do nothing to ease the price of gas, but it could actually raise the cost for consumers in parts of the country. The reasons for that being Keystone XL is likely to both decrease the amount of gasoline produced in U.S. refineries for domestic markets and increase the cost of producing it, according to a report from NRDC, Oil Change International and Forest Ethics Advocacy.

U.S. Senator Richard Lugar from Indiana has said that Keystone XL will result in “hundreds of thousands” of new jobs, created indirectly by the Keystone XL pipeline project. Senator Lugar’s “estimate is based in part on Perryman’s 2010 study for TransCanada, according to the senator’s spokesman, Andy Fisher.”

An independent analysis by Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute finds that these claims are completely false. Most jobs that are created by Keystone XL, according to the Cornell study, will be “temporary and non-local.” The Cornell report concludes that the pipeline “will not be a major source of US jobs, nor will it play any substantial role at all in putting Americans back to work.”

Republicans claim to be have the utmost concern and concerned about landowner rights, so much so that the issue was included in the GOP party platform of 2008 following the Supreme Court’s Kelo v. City of New London decision with which they disagreed…

In the GOP’s rabid support for construction of the Keystone XL tarsands pipeline, some members seem to have disregarded their fundamental support for property rights and opposition to eminent domain—a position that they made clear following the Supreme Court’s decision in.
Among others, Senators Cornyn (R-TX), Crapo (R-ID), Inhofe (R-OK), Isakson (R-GA), Hatch (R-UT), and Rubio (R-FL) all publically opposed the Kelo decision and now publically support the Keystone XL pipeline—despite the fact that eminent domain would be used to claim private property in seven states.
 

Keep in mind that the discussion of the Keystone XL Pipeline will be taking place in a city located on the Gulf of Mexico, an area still reeling from the effects of the 2010 BP oil geyser. To make things worse, TransCanada recently won a permit for the first leg of their pipeline that would cross several waterways in and around Galveston, Texas that feed directly into the Gulf of Mexico. TransCanada has already begun that construction.

Reports over the last year have shown that the pipeline will feature dangerously inadequate supervision, and that small leaks are almost impossible to detect. (A small leak can still cause massive oil spills and contaminate water supplies.) The Gulf of Mexico cannot afford another oil disaster.

The 2008 RNC convention brought us “Drill Baby Drill,” and it looks like that battle cry will reverberate through the state of Florida again this week.

Do Republicans understand the irony of advocating for foreign interests - Canada's - on a project that will raise prices for Americans, inevitably spill and contaminate our lands and waterways, and further threaten the global climate?

August 18 2012

14:00

Drought, Fracking, Coal and Nukes Wreak Havoc on Fresh Water Supplies

This is a guest post by EcoWatch, republished with permission.

For the last few months EcoWatch has been covering what's become the worst drought in the U.S. in more than half a century. More than 3,200 daily high temperature records were set or tied in June, and July is in the books as the warmest month ever recorded in the lower 48 states, according to a report issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center.

Besides the discomfort of relentless heat and unmitigated sunshine, the drought has forced us to rethink several issues commonly taken for granted—namely, abundant and affordable food, secure livelihoods for farmers, safety from natural disasters, practical public policy regarding the delegation of crops for food and biofuels, and most importantly, the value of water.

The value of water is inestimable. Without it, as the drought has shown us, uncertainty and chaos quickly enter the picture, throwing superpower economies off kilter and quite literally, imperiling lives.

But that's not all.

The drought of 2012 has more to teach us about the value of water as it lurches on, including the issues surrounding water as an integral component of conventional energy generation.

The undisputed champion of the current U.S. energy debate is hydraulic fracturing or fracking. As conventional oil and gas resources become more difficult to come by, energy companies now have to dig deeper than ever to unearth the rich deposits of fossil fuels still available. In order to fracture shale formations that often exist thousands of feet below the surface, drillers use anywhere from 1 to 8 million gallons of water per frack. A well may be fracked up to 18 times. The water, usually drawn from natural resources such as lakes and rivers, is unrecoverable once it's blasted into the earth, and out of the water cycle for good.

Even if there wasn't a problem with water contamination, deforestation, and noise and air pollution from fracking, the pro-drilling agenda would still be hit hard with an insurmountable roadblock—access to abundant water.

On June 28, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission suspended 37 separately approved water withdrawals for fracking due to localized streamflow levels dropping throughout the Susquehanna Basin in Pennsylvania and New York.

In Kansas, oil and gas drillers are running out of options due to the tenth driest July on record. Companies with dwindling access to water resources are resorting to paying farmers for what water they have left, or more, drilling their own water wells, digging ponds next to streams or trucking in water from places as far way as Pennsylvania, according to CNN Money.

Jeff Gordon, the CEO of Texas Coastal Energy Co. said, "That can cripple a drilling company, as lack of water can basically suspend operations."

Fracking isn't the only dirty energy industry that relies on water for its operations. On Aug. 12, Unit 2 of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Connecticut—which provides half of Connecticut's power and 12 percent of New England's—was shut down because the seawater used to cool the plant was too warm, according to the Hartford Courant.

In its 37-year history of operation, Unit 2 of the Millstone Power Station has never shut down due to excessively warm water. The power station, which draws its water from Long Island Sound, must cool its reactors with water no warmer than 75 degrees F, but following the hottest July on record, the water has been averaging 1.7 degrees F above the limit, according to the Hartford Courant.

According to a River Network report in June, electricity production by coal, nuclear and natural gas power plants is the fastest-growing use of freshwater in the U.S., accounting for more than half of all fresh, surface water withdrawals from rivers. This is more than any other economic sector, including agriculture, and occurs in an era when all other use sectors are reducing water withdrawals.

According to the report, more than a quarter of the water withdrawn by fossil-fuel power plants to cool their generators goes up in steam—the remainder carries pollutants and excess heat into rivers and waterways, causing fish kills and algae blooms.

Put in perspective, for every gallon of water used in an average household, five times more water (40,000 gallons each month) is used to provide that home with electricity via hydropower turbines and fossil fuel power plants.

Creating a sustainable relationship with the world's freshwater resources is the most vital environmental issue facing us today. While scientists continue to work on creative uses of wastewater to stretch our resources farther—such as substitution, regeneration and reduction—a prevailing shift in attitude that values water over profits will ultimately be required to ensure the world's population will have access to safe drinking water.

To better understand the world's water crisis, see the documentary Last Call at the Oasis, which provides insights from well-known experts including rebel consumer advocate Erin Brockovich, Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick, author Robert Glennon, hydrologist James S. Famiglietti and biologist Tyrone Hayes, who studies the effects and pervasiveness of the herbicide Atrazine.

Visit EcoWatch's WATER page for more related news on this topic.

August 16 2012

15:03

August 15 2012

20:33
16:04

August 13 2012

17:04

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

From Think Progress:
  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 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 08 2012

13:53

On Our Radar: N.R.C. Puts Off Licensing Decisions

The commission suspends decisions on license renewals for nuclear plants until the commission reassesses the nagging issue of storing spent nuclear fuel.

August 07 2012

17:57

August 02 2012

20:09

What To Expect When You’re Electing: Mitt Romney’s Energy Advisors

In the last few months, the press has been drawing a lot of parallels between presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and former Republican President George W. Bush. And they have plenty of reasons for doing so. Romney has already tapped many of the same Bush economic and foreign policy advisers, and rumors were swirling earlier this year that Romney would tap Bush’s energy advisers as well.

As it turns out, those rumors are true.

Climate Progress has compiled a list of people who have been tapped, or will likely be tapped, by Romney for his energy team. The roster is a virtual “Dream Team” of dirty energy industry representatives from the coal industry, the shale gas industry, the oil industry, mountaintop removal mining companies, and lobbyists - all of whom were close advisers and friends of George W. Bush.

The most terrifying name on the list is American Petroleum Institute president Jack Gerard. Climate Progress points out that Gerard has been a longtime supporter of Romney, and that Romney considers Gerard a close, personal friend. Gerard’s stated goals, goals that we have to assume he’ll pressure Romney to fulfill, include placing an oil lobbyist in every district in America, opening up all federal lands for oil drilling, and removing many existing safety regulations.


The pick for Romney’s chief energy adviser is Harold Hamm, the head of oil-shale company Continental Resources. As the 78th richest man in the world, Hamm already has a significant amount of power, but being a chief adviser to the President of the United States would give him all the power he needs. His top priority, and the priority he says a Romney administration would approve immediately, is the Keystone XL pipeline, which would provide a gigantic financial benefit for Hamm.

Then we have Tom Farrell from the coal industry, a Romney campaign adviser, who wants to roll back the Clean Air Act and restrict the EPA from regulating harmful mercury emissions.

David Wilkins, a tar sands lobbyist, handles Canadian oil issues for the Romney campaign. He is also a card-carrying member of ALEC, who has worked to create special legal loopholes for lobbyists to push anti-environmental bills.

Rounding out the team are lobbyists Linda Stuntz, Jeffrey Holmstead, Greg Mankiw, and Jim Talent, all working on behalf of sectors within the dirty energy industry. Collectively, they have pushed for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, opening federal lands to drilling (including offshore drilling in protected areas), and reducing pollution controls and taking away what little power the EPA has left to wield.

Romney has already proposed plans that would greatly benefit the industries from which his advisers came from, including an expansion of the oil industry tax breaks and subsidies, effectively raising the annual giveaway to about $8 billion a year (up from an estimated $4 billion a year). His tax break plan would give another $2.3 billion to the top five oil companies alone.

On top of that tax giveaway, Romney has also proposed a plan that would exempt income made overseas from U.S. taxes, which would be an enormous boon to the oil industry. Last year alone, Exxon, Chevron and ConocoPhillips made a combined $76 billion overseas, and under Romney’s plan, they could bring that money back into the U.S. without having to pay a dime in taxes.

And at the same time he’s proposing these huge gifts to the dirty energy industry, he’s also touting a plan that would strip tax credits away from renewable energy projects, specifically the production tax credit for wind energy. Not only would this cripple that renewable energy sector, it would also cost the U.S. an estimated 37,000 jobs that are funded by that tax credit.

As I pointed out in part 2 of this series, Romney’s environmental policies as governor of Massachusetts were surprisingly progressive. But when he made the decision to run for national office, his policies fell more in line with the far right of the Republican Party, not unlike Senator John McCain during his bid for the Republican nomination. The fact that Romney is looking to the same energy advisers that served President Bush shows that his policies will likely shift even further, becoming almost indistinguishable from those of the dirty energy industry.

History is the best lesson for the future, and going forward, Mitt Romney needs to remember one very important number: 22. That was the percent of the American population that approved of George W. Bush when he left office, the lowest approval rating upon leaving office in the history of American presidential polling. If Romney chooses the same path as Bush, he could easily be looking at similar poll numbers in the very near future.

August 01 2012

15:41

A Glimpse of the Alternative Fuel Future

While the biofuel, electric battery and liquefied natural gas technologies are advancing, the internal combustion engine will reign supreme for decades, a group reports.

July 30 2012

18:56

Oozing Fuel, in a New York Reservoir?

Two fuel tanks were apparently left at the bottom of the Pepacton Reservoir before it went into service in 1955.

July 29 2012

20:13

How Do You Spend $375 Million A Day? Ask The Oil Industry

The average U.S. household has seen both their net worth and their average income steadily decline over the last seven years. Unemployment in the United States still remains at uncomfortably high levels, and the poverty rate is about to reach highs that haven’t been seen since the 1960’s. But as average citizens are struggling to provide food for their families and gainful employment, there are a special few in the U.S.A. who have more cash than they know what to do with. Those special few would be the oil industry.

While most of us in the U.S. were cringing every time that ticker on the gas pump climbed higher and higher, executives at the top five oil companies were squealing with delight as their profits climbed even faster and higher than the prices at the pump.

This week, oil companies are sheepishly coming forward with their 2nd quarter earnings statements, likely praying that Americans forget about the fact that gas prices were recently at near-historic highs in areas of the country. From Climate Progress:
  

The top two corporations on the Fortune 500 Global ranking, Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil, announced their 2012 second-quarter earnings today, bringing the total profits for three Big Oil companies to $44 billion for 2012 or $250,000 every day this year. Exxon profited by $16 billion this quarter, bringing its earnings for 2012 to $25 billion.

The New York Times wrote that Exxon and Shell’s earnings “disappoint,” because energy prices unexpectedly dropped for consumers this summer. Put their profits in the appropriate context, however, and Exxon and Shell still made a combined $160,000 per minute last quarter, even though the top five oil companies benefit from $2.4 billion federal tax breaks every year.
 

That certainly warrants repeating: Exxon and Shell made a combined $160,000 every minute for the last quarter, and still helped themselves to a piece of the $2.4 billion in federal tax breaks and subsidies that flow to the top five oil companies (the grand total for all members of the industry is estimated to be between $4 and $7 billion a year.)

At their current rate of pay by the minute, they are on track to beat their record from last year when the top five oil companies combined earned a total of $261,000 every minute, for a grand total of $375 million a day.

So the ultimate question is how do they spend all that money? The simplest answer is that they spend most of it in ways that only makes them wealthier. Again from Climate Progress:
  

ExxonMobil:

Exxon spent 42 percent — or $10.7 billion — of its 2012 profits buying back its stock, which enriches executives and largest shareholders.

Exxon has spent $17 million lobbying for the past 18 months, making it the top spender in the oil and gas industry. It has spent more than $52 million lobbying for the first three years of the Obama presidency, 50 percent more than in the Bush administration.

Exxon is sitting on $18 billion in cash reserves.

Exxon sent federal candidates $1.3 million in campaign contributions so far this campaign cycle, sending 91 percent to Republicans.

Exxon paid just 13 percent in federal taxes last year, lower than the average American family. Right after Mitt Romney, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is the top recipient of Exxon federal contributions.

Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson received $24.7 million total compensation.

Royal Dutch Shell:

Shell has spent nearly $22 million on lobbying for the past 18 months, making it the second-biggest spender of the oil and gas industry.

Shell bought back 15 percent of its second-quarter profits, or $900 million.

In its annual report, Shell noted that the number of oil spills increased from 195 in 2010 to 207 during 2011.
 

But Exxon and Shell aren’t the only companies to report massive paydays this week; ConocoPhillips is also apparently rolling in the dough. Here’s how they spent their $2.3 billion in 2nd quarter profits:
  

ConocoPhillips has already spent $1 million lobbying Congress this year. In 2011, ConocoPhillips spent over $20 million on lobbying Congress, making it the top spender of the oil and gas industry.

Conoco has contributed nearly $400,000 to federal campaigns this year, with 90 percent of the contributions going to Republicans.

Conoco is sitting on $1 billion in cash reserves.

The company spent 35 percent more than they earned this quarter — or $3.1 billion — buying back its own stock, which enriches the largest shareholders and executives.
 

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with a company being profitable. The problem is that the oil industry is profitable at the expense of our national economy and our environment. Oil spills in recent years have cost billions of dollars – money that is coming from U.S. taxpayers – and the ridiculous prices at the pump are taking a huge toll on American families.

And again, at the same time these companies are reaping these profits, we’re giving them an extra $7 billion tip every year. And as long as they keep pulling in these massive profits, they’ll have enough money to pay off the right politicians to keep those billions in subsidies in place. Last year, the total amount spent on lobbying topped $30 million by the oil industry in order to preserve their subsidies, which netted them a whopping 42% return on their investment.

July 28 2012

13:00

The Real Train Wreck: ALEC and "Other ALECs" Attack EPA Regulations

When business-friendly bills and resolutions spread like wildfire in statehouses nationwide calling for something as far-fetched as a halt to EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, ALEC is always a safe bet for a good place to look for their origin.

In the midst of hosting its 39th Annual Meeting this week in Salt Lake City, Utah, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is appropriately described as an ideologically conservative "corporate bill mill" by the Center for Media and Democracy, the overseer of the ALEC Exposed project. 98 percent of ALEC's funding comes from corporations, according to CMD**.

ALEC's meetings bring together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to schmooze and then vote on what it calls "model bills." Lobbyists, as CMD explains, have a "voice and a vote in shaping policy." In short, they have de facto veto power over whether the prospective bills they present at these conferences become "models" that will be distributed to the offices of politicians in statehouses nationwide.

For a concise version of how ALEC operates, see the brand new video below by Mark Fiore.

 
ALEC Rock

ALEC, though, isn't the only group singing this tune.

As it turns out, one of the "Other ALECs," or a group that operates in a similar manner to ALEC, will be hosting its conference in the immediate aftermath of ALEC's conference: the Council of State Government's (CSG) regional offshoot, the Southern Leadership Conference (SLC).

Like ALEC, CSG produces its own "model bills," which it calls "Suggested State Legislation" (SSL). SSL is enacted via an "up or down" vote manner at CSG's national meetings. This process mirrors that of its cousin ALEC, with corporate lobbyists also able to vote in closed door meetings.

Some key differences between CSG and ALEC: the former is bipartisan in nature, while the latter is Republican Party-centric; CSG has a far larger budget, due to the fact that 43 percent of its funding comes from taxpayer contributions; and CSG is not explicitly ideological in nature because it was founded as a trade association for state legislators (not as a corporate front group like ALEC, although CSG is now heavily influenced by the same forces).

SLC's annual meeting will be held in Charleston, West Virginia from July 28-31.

TruthOut's ongoing "Other ALECs Exposed" series (written by yours truly) digs deep into the machinations of "Other ALEC"-like groups.

One of the key threads tying these two particular groups together is their agreement on derailing what they describe as "job-killing" EPA greenhouse gas emissions regulations. ALEC has referred to these sensible standards on multiple occassions as a "Regulatory Trainwreck."

ALEC, SLC and EPA "Regulatory Trainwreck" Resolutions

ALEC's "Regulatory Trainwreck" Resolution

ALEC has two model bills on the books that call for EPA regulations to be eliminated: the State Regulatory Responsibility Act and the Resolution Opposing EPA’s Regulatory Train Wreck. Essentially clones, the two bills passed nearly a decade apart from one another, the former in 2000, the latter in 2011.

ALEC's description of EPA regulations reads like the apocolypse is looming.

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun a war on the American standard of living," it wrote. "During the past couple of years, the Agency has undertaken the most expansive regulatory assault in history on the production and distribution of affordable and reliable energy…These regulations are causing the shutdown of power plants across the nation, forcing electricity generation off of coal, destroying jobs, raising energy costs, and decreasing reliability."  

Former CMD reporter Jill Richardson wrote in a July 2011 story that the concept behind the resolution originated at ALEC's December 2010 policy summit. Richardson explained,

The policy summit included a session led by Peter Glaser of Troutman Sanders LLP law firm in which Glaser, an attorney who represents electric utility, mining and other energy industry companies and associations on environmental regulation, specifically in the area of air quality and global climate change, told the crowd that "EPA's regulatory trainwreck" is "a term that's now in common use around town. I think everybody should become familiar with it." (See the video here.) Along with the presentations, ALEC published a report called "EPA's Regulatory Trainwreck: Strategies for State Legislators" and provided "Legislation to Consider" on its site, RegulatoryTrainwreck.com. For the public, they created the website StopTheTrainwreck.com.

The Resolution calls for the EPA to stop regulating greenhouse gases for the next two years as a "jobs creation" mechanism.

After the midterm election ransacking, in which the GOP won large majorities in state legislatures nationwide, it was off to the races for "Regulatory Train Wreck" resolutions to pass around the country, and pass they did. 

The "Regulatory Trainwreck" resolution, according to ALEC, has been introduced in an astounding 34 states, passing in 13, as of a June 2011 press release.

This assault conducted by ALEC and its corporate backers is merely the tip of the iceberg. ALEC itself boasts,

There are 27 groups of state and local officials that opposerecent EPA action, including tens of thousands of state legislators, utility commissioners, agricultural department officials, foresters, drinking water administrators, fish and wildlife agencies, solid waste management officials, state wetland managers, mayors, counties, and cities.

One of these 27 groups included CSG's Southern Leadership Conference.

SLC Adopts the "Regulatory Train Wreck" Resolution as its Own

On July 19, 2011, the SLC adopted the ALEC Regulatory Train Wreck resolution at its 65th Annual Meeting in Memphis, TN. The Resolution called for, among other things, to

  1. "Adopt legislation prohibiting the EPA from further regulating greenhouse gas emissions for the next 24 months, including, if necessary, defunding the EPA greenhouse gas regulatory activity;"
  2. "Impose a moratorium on the promulgation of any new air quality regulation by the EPA, including, if necessary,the defunding of the EPA air quality regulatory activities, except to address an imminent health or environmental emergency, for a period of at least 24 months;"  

In other words, this is a copycat of the ALEC Resolution. SLC, like ALEC, chocks it up to the false dichotomy of regulation vs. jobs, and regulations "killing jobs." As DeSmogBlog has written, the opposite is actually the case.

The resolution's opening paragraph is a case in point. It reads,

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed, or is in the process of proposing, numerous regulations regarding air quality and regulation of greenhouse gases that likely will have major effects on Southern state economies, impacting businesses, manufacturing industries and, in turn, job creation and U.S. competitiveness in world markets."

Lobbyists representing the Nuclear Energy Institute, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), Southern States Energy Board (a lobbying tour de force, which has a whole host of dirty energy clients in the oil, gas, and nuclear power sectors), Piedmont Natural Gas, Spectra Energy, and Southern Company were all in attendance to vote on this resolution. 

Dirty energy sponsors of the 2011 SLC meeting included the likes of Spectra, General Electric, ACCCE, Chevron, Honeywell, Piedmont Natural Gas, BP, Southern Company, and Atmos Energy, to name several.

If adopted at a federal level, this resolution would, of course, make all of these companies a hefty fortune.  

ALEC's Bifurcated Approach: Strip Federal Regs, Attack Local Democracy

Oil, gas, nuclear and utility corporations that fund ALEC and groups like CSG would like nothing more than to see EPA regulations disintegrate into thin air.

Part one of DeSmog's investigation on ALEC's dirty energy agenda showed that, along with pushing for the elimination of EPA regulations, it has also succeeded in promulgating legislation that would eliminate local democracy as we know it, including altering key standards such as zoning rights - a Big Business giveaway of epic proportions.

This would mean only extremely underfunded and understaffed state regulatory agencies like the New York Department of Environmental Conservation would have any oversight on environmental regulatory issues. 

If anything is clear, it's this: statehouses have become one of Big Business' favorite domiciles for pushing its "Corporate Playbook." 

Image CreditLane V. Erickson ShutterStock

(**Full Disclosure: Steve Horn is a former employee of CMD and worked on the ALECExposed project)

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