B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘environment’ tag

Launch of Green Tea Coalition Drives a Wedge Through Georgia’s Tea Party

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Morning profits
Morning profits

Merits further attention, especially if replicated in other states besides Georgia…

“The Tea Party has formed an unholy alliance with the left,” Debbie Dooley recalls a panicked member of Georgia’s big energy lobby lamenting. Dooley, a co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots, doesn’t deny the charges. In fact, she is set this Tuesday to celebrate the official launch of the Green Tea Coalition – the same “unholy alliance” of right and left grassroots that has big oil interests reeling.

“It’s an unholy alliance because they see it as a threat to them,” Dooley said, speaking ahead of the launch. “In the past, the elites on both the right and the left got away with it. On the right, they’d say, ‘This person’s on the left. Stay away from them,’ On the left, they’d say, ‘They’re radical, they’re the Tea Party. Stay away from them.’ “But we got through all that bull, got to know each other, and started working together,” she said.

(click here to continue reading Launch of Green Tea Coalition Drives a Wedge Through Georgia’s Tea Party.)

Confessions I See Through To the End
Confessions I See Through To the End

especially because the core truth is that groups like the Koch Brothers do not have the country’s best interest at heart, only in protecting their own financial positions. If they could manipulate working and middle class people into supporting laws that only benefit the 1%, then that is money well spent, for the 1%.

The danger was that conservatives – whose politics have traditionally aligned with the interests of corporate America – would take some of the ideas brewing in the teapot too far. Conservative Americans had begun to wholly embrace the idea that there was such a thing as “crony capitalism,” that certain powerful industries didn’t need to be subsidized for under-performing, or bailed out for failing, and that local and individual autonomy was more important than maintaining the profit structures of big industries.

Those ideas, taken to their logical conclusions, might have led to a conservative revolution that would have severely crippled the power of industries like Koch and Southern Company. The Koch plan, then, was to jump into the fray: a corporate entity hidden among the throngs of one of the largest political movements in decades. On the fertile ground of an emergent movement, Koch would sow their genetically modified seeds of ideology. The idea was to tweak the message of the Tea Party just enough to reroute the movement’s trajectory in such a way that, far from being the bad guys, industrialists could cast themselves as the victims and even allies of average Americans.

“We don’t need taxpayer funded government subsidies and renewable energy mandates,” AFP Georgia wrote in a statement on the Georgia solar plan. “The government has spent $14 billion since 2009 propping up renewable energy projects. They wouldn’t have to do that if the technology was more market ready.”

See? AFP is on the side of the people, standing up against big government subsidies for technology that may not even be ready for prime time. The fact that solar even requires government subsidies proves it isn’t ready, so they claim.

But just don’t expect AFP to apply the same standard to Koch-style industries. Between 1994 and 2009, U.S. oil and gas industries amassed nearly $450 billion in subsidies, compared to a relatively paltry $6 billion for renewable energy over the same period.

And don’t expect AFP to rail against Southern Company’s $8.3 billion federal loan guarantee for its new nuclear projects, either – despite its being the same type of loan granted to solar power company Solyndra, which AFP spent over $8 million to defame between 2011 to 2012.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 13th, 2013 at 9:36 am

Long Awaited Closing of State Line Power Station

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Midwest Generation Fisk Station
Midwest Generation Fisk Station

Hmm, 100 jobs versus the air quality for over 9,000,000 other people (and maybe more – I’m just counting the Chicagoland area). How is that even a debate? And land-use? Again, not really a debate except by debating societies…

While many environmentalists are cheering the closing, it raises new environmental and land-use challenges. It will also be an economic blow to Hammond, and to about 100 employees…Similar situations are playing out nationwide as aging coal plants close, including a Dominion plant in Salem, Mass.; six Midwestern and Eastern coal plants owned by FirstEnergy Corp.; and, potentially, the Fisk and Crawford plants in Chicago in coming years.

Lower natural gas prices from the increase in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of shale gas deposits have made it much less profitable to produce electricity from coal. This is especially true for facilities like State Line and the Chicago coal plants, which sell electricity on a highly competitive short-term wholesale market rather than through long-term contracts.

“These companies bought coal plants based on certain assumptions about the price of natural gas,” said William Boyd, a professor of energy law at the University of Colorado. “Shale gas turned their world upside down, and retrofitting old coal plants to meet new environmental regulations doesn’t make sense anymore.”

Some coal plants elsewhere in the country have been retrofitted to burn natural gas. But Dominion and Midwest Generation, which owns the Chicago plants, said converting would be too expensive.

Doug McFarlan, a spokesman for Midwest Generation, said, “We will continue to evaluate numerous factors — including the capital expenditures required to comply with environmental regulations and market conditions that impact our ability to recover costs — in making decisions about future investments in any of our power generating units.”

Dominion had planned to close State Line in 2014, but last summer the company said the plant would be shut down by March.

Environmental advocates have long said the sooner the better, since medical studies link emissions from coal plants to higher rates of asthma attacks, cardiac disease and premature death among surrounding residents.

(click here to continue reading Closing of State Line Power Station, on Illinois-Indiana Border, Is Expected to Leave Problems Behind – NYTimes.com.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

February 15th, 2012 at 7:58 am

Obama Administration Abandons Plan to Change Bush Pollution Policy

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Stack for Fisk Generating Station
Stack for Fisk Generating Station

Such a cynical strategy: screw the liberals, because when it gets down to two candidates, and one is a Tea Bagger Know-Nothing, who are liberals going to vote for? Of course, that was Al Gore’s strategy too, and he lost1

Obama better be careful, if all the liberal enthusiasm is drained away, voter turnout will be anemic, and he won’t be reelected.

WASHINGTON — President Obama abandoned a contentious new air pollution rule on Friday, buoying business interests that had lobbied heavily against it, angering environmentalists who called the move a betrayal and unnerving his own top environmental regulators.

The president rejected a proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency that would have significantly reduced emissions of smog-causing chemicals, saying that it would impose too severe a burden on industry and local governments at a time of economic distress.

Business groups and Republicans in Congress had complained that meeting the new standard, which governs emissions of so-called ground-level ozone, would cost billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs.

 

(click here to continue reading Obama Administration Abandons Plan to Tighten Air-Quality Rules – NYTimes.com.)

Satanic Gift
Satanic Gift

And I know Obama was never a very strong supporter of the environment2, but I reject this argument. Pollution controls are not going to cost jobs any more than lowering taxes on the rich is going to create jobs.

If the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute is applauding your actions, you are doing it wrong.

Reaction from environmental advocates ranged from disappointment to fury, with several noting that in just the past month the administration had tentatively approved drilling in the Arctic, given an environmental green light to the 1,700-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Texas and opened 20 million more acres of the Gulf of Mexico to drilling.
Daniel J. Weiss, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said, “Today’s announcement from the White House that they will retreat from implementing the much-needed — and long-overdue — ozone pollution standard is deeply disappointing and grants an item on Big Oil’s wish list at the expense of the health of children, seniors and the infirm.” The center is a liberal research group with close ties to the White House.

Bill McKibben, an activist leading a two-week White House protest against the pipeline project which has resulted in more than 1,000 arrests, said that the latest move was “flabbergasting.”
“Somehow we need to get back the president we thought we elected in 2008,” he said.
Cass R. Sunstein, who leads the White House office that reviews all major regulations, said he was carefully scrutinizing proposed rules across the government to ensure that they are cost efficient and based on the best current science. He said in a letter to Ms. Jackson that the studies on which the E.P.A.’s proposed rule is based were completed in 2006 and that new assessments were already under way.

The issue had become a flashpoint between the administration and Republicans in Congress, who held up the proposed ozone rule as a test of the White House’s commitment to regulatory reform and job creation. Imposing the new rule before the 2012 election would have created political problems for the administration and for Democrats nationwide seeking election in a brittle economy.

Leaders of major business groups — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute and the Business Roundtable — met with Ms. Jackson and with top White House officials this summer seeking to moderate, delay or kill the rule. They told William M. Daley, the White House chief of staff, that the rule would be very costly to industry and would hurt Mr. Obama’s chances for a second term.

Green Zone
Green Zone

Environmental activists can barely contain their fury at Obama’s craven actions:

John D. Walke, clean air director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group based in New York, likened the ozone decision to a “bomb being dropped.”
Mr. Walke and representatives of other environmental groups saw the president’s actions as brazen political sellouts to business interests and the Republican Party, which regards environmental regulations as job killers and a brick wall to economic recovery.

…the president could face political repercussions in subtler but nevertheless corrosive ways: from losing volunteer enthusiasm to tying up his allies in fights with him instead of with his enemies. “Energy from part of the base will now be directed at communicating with the White House and not with the public about the administration’s record,” said Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group with close ties to the White House.

Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, who does extensive work on public perception and the environment, said the real threat to the president’s reputation stemming from the ozone decision went far beyond environmentalists.

“It could play into an emerging narrative in his own party that he is caving too quickly to Republican pressure,” Dr. Leiserowitz said. “It is a dangerous narrative in your own base because it cuts down on enthusiasm and it is a narrative that his opponents will pick up on.”

In fact, it is a lesson that some environmental groups have already learned, and they are preparing to act accordingly.

“I think that two-plus years into Obama’s presidency is more than enough time for him to have established a clear weak record,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, which has been battling the president on endangered species.

“The environmental movement needs to keep piling the pressure on and realizing playing nicey-nice won’t work,” Mr. Suckling said, adding that more public actions and lawsuits are the way to get Mr. Obama’s attention.

(click here to continue reading Obama’s Retreat on Ozone Standards Angers Environmentalists – NYTimes.com.)

Footnotes:
  1. well, Gore actually won, but not by as much as if he had campaigned as a liberal instead of a DNC acolyte, and thus Bush was able to finess a victory with the help of the Supreme Court []
  2. with the exception of maybe from spring to fall of 2008 []

Written by Seth Anderson

September 3rd, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Historic Rainfall in Chicago

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Another Monsoon
Another Monsoon

Intuitively, we knew there was a lot of rain this year, and especially this month, and we were right:

Two passing storms overnight dumped enough rain to make this July the wettest one in the city’s history. They also knocked out power to tens of thousands of area residents and raised fears of more flooding.

The wave of storms, which spurred tornado and flood watches across the area, raised this month’s rainfall total to 9.75 inches, drowning the previous record of 9.56 inches set in July 1889.

And with more rainy weather on the way, the record is expected to keep climbing, forecasters said.

“Ten inches isn’t out of the question,” said Andrew Krein, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

It could be even more.

A lot of rain wasn’t needed to smash the old July record.

As of early Wednesday afternoon, 9.05 inches had fallen this month at O’Hare International Airport, the official measuring station, about half an inch less than the record 9.56 inches that fell here in July 1889, according to the weather service. The city has averaged 3.51 inches of rain in July from 1871 through last year, weather service records show.
This July is now the ninth wettest month in Chicago history. The all-time monthly rainfall record is 17.1 inches, set in August 1987.

(click here to continue reading 122-year rainfall record for July falls, more storms coming – chicagotribune.com.)

Seems as if Rick Perry’s prayers for rain to fall in Texas and his other affronts to God had an effect after all1

Accidental Storm Bokeh
Accidental Storm Bokeh

Clarity of distress

Clarity of distress

Footnotes:
  1. kidding, really, I am. Praying for rain has no relevance to actual weather patterns in the slightest. []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 28th, 2011 at 9:40 am

Rick Perry Is a Hypocrite

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Austin Capitol From The East Side

Not that this is breaking news or anything, but Governor Good Hair Perry is a hypocrite and a liar. And a raging Tea Bagger, in deed if not words. I thought Rick Perry was advocating Texas secede? I guess he doesn’t have the courage of his convictions, all talk, no cattle, as the phrase goes.

Asked by a Dallas television reporter whether he agreed with Texas leaders that the federal government should take some governing cues from the Lone Star State, President Barack Obama said he saw “a little inconsistency” in that position.

“Keep in mind, Gov. (Rick) Perry helped balance his budget with about $6 billion worth of federal help, which he happily took, and then started blaming the members of Congress who had offered that help,” Obama said during an April 18 interview with WFAA reporter Brad Watson at the White House.

The roughly $800 billion federal stimulus package, named the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act by Congress, became law in February 2009 after receiving only three Republican votes, all in the Senate. State governments were the primary recipients of the money, although funds have also gone directly to entities such as schools, hospitals and utilities.

The law specified that governors had 45 days after its passage to certify that their state would “request and use” the offered funds. On Feb. 18, 2009, Perry sent Obama the requisite letter of certification, assuring the president that the state would accept the funds and use them “in the best interest of Texas taxpayers.”

According to a February 2009 PBS News Hour online post, some stimulus money was meant “to help states avoid slashing funding for education and other programs that lawmakers could trim to offset shortfalls.”

Abrams, asked for backup for the president’s statement, pointed us to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which in turn sent us its July 2009 report on state budgets. According to the report, state budget-writing Texas lawmakers in 2009 were short $6.6 billion in revenue for 2010-11 and relied heavily on stimulus funds for a solution.

(click here to continue reading Barack Obama: “Gov. (Rick) Perry helped balance his budget with about $6 billion worth of federal help, which he happily took, and then started blaming the members of Congress who had offered that help.” – Latest Barack Obama News – Barack Obama: 2008 US Presidential Candidate – Newsbeet.)

Somebody's Girlfriend in front of the fire

And now that the Texas drought is helping Texas go up in wildfire flames, Governor Perry wants more of that sweet, sweet federal cash. And a kiss too.

Given the fact that Texas will certainly break the record for the most acres of land that has ever burned, in state history, it is obscene that Texas Republicans — who control every level of state government, as they have for every year since 2003 — are planning to do this, according to KVUE news here in Austin, TX:

State funding for volunteer fire departments is taking a big hit. It is going from $30 million to $7 million. Those departments are already facing financial strains. The State Firemen’s and Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas represents 21,000 state firefighters. The Association says more than 80 percent of volunteer firefighters are reporting taking a personal hit in the budget crisis. They have started using their own money to help pay for equipment and supplies.

“We’ve seen budget cuts, but this is the worst time that we’ve ever seen,” said Executive Director Chris Barron. “As far as the budget crisis and the fuel cost stuff for example continues to go up and it doesn’t help us out any whatsoever, so with the rising fuel and the budget cuts from the state it’s taken a great effect. I think the citizens and the public is going to see that.”

Most of the State of Texas is protected by volunteer departments. There are 879 volunteer departments compared to 114 paid departments and 187 departments that are a combination of both paid and volunteer firefighters.

To summarize:

  • 1.8 million acres of Texas land has burned, guaranteeing Texas will have the worst year for wildfires in recorded history
  • So far this year local fire departments have saved over 10,000 structures from being burned
  • There are 879 volunteer fire departments in Texas, compared to 114 paid departments and 187 that are a combination of both
  • Texas Republicans have voted to cut funding for volunteer firefighters by over 75%.

By the way — Governor Perry’s solution for all of this was simple: pray.

(click here to continue reading Burnt Orange Report: While Texas Burns, Texas Republicans Could Cut Funds for Volunteer Firefighters by 75%.)

Rain Collector

The Governor is gonna make it rain…

This straight from the “How is it we are not making this up?” files: Gov. Rick Perry has declared this weekend Days of Prayer for Rain in Texas. Well, that’s cheaper than coming up with real water policy. Obviously you are currently checking the date but, no, this is not a delayed April Fools story. It’s on his website.

In an accompanying statement, Perry said, “It is fitting that Texans should join together in prayer to humbly seek an end to this ongoing drought and these devastating wildfires.” What makes this particularly galling is when he goes on to ask Texans to pray for “the safety of the brave firefighters and emergency management officials who have worked tirelessly to protect lives and property around the state.” This would mean something if Perry’s people had not stood in the way of a measure that would have improved the safety of exactly those firefighters. It is not just that the current wildfires, which have destroyed over 1.5 million acres and killed two firefighters, are so huge: It is that Texas is increasingly building housing outside of cities. Unincorporated areas are very attractive to developers because there is usually lots of space and fewer regulations. However, there are also fewer hospitals, fewer police, and fewer firefighters. That means less equipment, fewer fire stations, and worse response times.

Texas had a chance to fix that two years ago, and Perry was at least passively part of the effort to squash that fix. Back in 2009, now former Travis County Democratic state rep Valinda Bolton authored House Bill 3477, a measure that would have allowed those hugely overstretched rural emergency service districts to hold short-term tax elections for desperately needed infrastructure. The sole purpose was to cut response times and give them a better chance to fight exactly this kind of fire. It is interesting to note that, when the accompanying House Joint Resolution 112 came up in committee, every witness spoke for the bill – except for Michele Greg of the Texas Apartment Association. Somehow, the bill still failed, and word at the time was that the governor’s office was pleased that even a vitally needed and broadly supported ‘tax’ bill sputtered out. If it had passed, then it would have given ESDs the ability to ask voters to give them more resources to fight wildfires in unincorporated areas. It would also have meant more infrastructure in place like Oak Hill, which was severely damaged by fire this weekend, when they are incorporated.

When asked about the bill’s demise last year, Perry said he did not know about the specifics. However, during the 2009 session it was pretty clear to everyone that HB 3477 was squashed as part of the general anti-tax, anti-public investment rubric coming out of his office. So now Perry’s solution to out-of-control wildfires caused by a massive and ongoing drought (ssssh don’t mention climate change) is prayer. Maybe we should be praying for longer hoses.

(click here to continue reading Perry Gonna Make it Rain – News Blog – The Austin Chronicle.)

With wildfire season gearing up out West, more tankers are expected to be available. A total of 18 air tankers are scheduled to be cycled in for use by mid-June, and four more military C-130s could also be called upon in an emergency.

Severe drought set the stage for these massive wildfires, but the intense winds and abundant shrubs that grew as a result of last year’s more plentiful rains stirred the pot for Texas and its surrounding areas (ClimateWire, April 21).

Texas State climatologist John Nielson-Gammon said that while the Texas fires themselves cannot be attributed to climate change, global warming likely sparked some of the conditions leading to the blazes.

“Global warming probably produced a slight enhancement of the rainfall, leading to a little extra plant growth,” he said. “Also, the warm temperatures during the past couple of months are probably a degree or two warmer than they would have been without the rise in global temperatures, thereby increasing the dryness,” he added.

(click here to continue reading Fighters From 43 States Battle Far-Flung Texas Wildfires – NYTimes.com.)

Skull and Concrete

But, don’t forget, Obama is the culprit, not Rick Perry and his teabagger tendencies.

Wildfires have already ravaged nearly two million acres in Texas, and Perry is requesting federal help to pay for the emergency response, officials said. Spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said without the federal assistance, “we’re going to have to get pretty creative.” She said it has been about 10 days since the state requested federal disaster assistance and the governor, who has repeatedly bashed Washington, believes disaster response is one of the government’s “core functions.”

She said the state has estimated the cost of the response at $70 million. The state can pay 25 percent of that, or about $17.5 million, Cesinger added. Perry wants Uncle Sam to pick up the rest of it.

“We can’t afford ($70 milllion),” Cesinger said. “That’s why we asked them for help.”

(click here to continue reading Texas governor: Disaster could blow hole in budget – BusinessWeek.)

A federal major disaster declaration could reimburse Texas and local governments 75 percent of the cost of their response. Local departments and the Texas Forest Service have spent more than $60 million since Sept. 1 responding to wildfires, state forest service spokeswoman Linda Moon said.

“Governor Perry’s request is currently under review, and will continue our close coordination with the state as they work to protect their residents and communities,” FEMA spokeswoman Rachel Racusen said.

She said Texas has already received 22 grants to help pay fire management expenses this fire season, including 16 in April alone.

In the past, Perry has charged that the Obama administration is punishing Texas. The Republican governor has been an outspoken opponent of the federal health reform law, and the state is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over a proposal to end Texas’ independent air quality permitting program for factories and refineries.

(click here to continue reading UPDATE 1-Governor says Obama leaving Texas in the dust | Reuters.)

Written by Seth Anderson

April 29th, 2011 at 9:39 am

Posted in government,politics

Tagged with , ,

Coal Subsidies and Congressional Liars

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Withered and Died

Speaking of hidden costs and corporations getting a free ride, compare and contrast the coal-owned Congressman from West Virginia on the one hand…

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), the newest member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, claimed today that the coal industry doesn’t receive any government subsidies, unlike every other form of energy. The former governor of coal-state West Virginia, who famously fired a rifle at clean energy legislation in a campaign ad, argued that the Obama administration has “villainized” coal. In a hearing on energy markets, Manchin went on to criticize the Environmental Protection Agency — which has issued regulations to limit the catastrophic impact of mountaintop removal mining and the existential threat of global warming pollution — for putting up “roadblocks” on the “greatest source” of energy in the nation:

What I don’t understand is the subsidies. The subsidies of energy, whether it be to oil, gas, wind, solar, biofuels, ethanol. The only energy source — which is the greatest source that we have so far as we’re dependent on — is coal. It doesn’t get a penny of subsidies. But it’s been villainized by this administration and so many people and it’s the one we depend on the most. It gives back more than it takes. I can’t figure it out.

We’re trying to use it in so many different forms, in super-critical heating, and things of this sort. We’re running into roadblocks with the EPA from every turn that we go. We’re trying to use it in conjunction with our natural gas productions, and trying to look at the changing the fleet to compressed natural gas, I think that’s very doable. Do you all have a comment on why that one source of energy which is the most dependent upon in this nation has no types of subsidies but the others demand so many subsidies?

(click here to continue reading Wonk Room » Manchin Claims Coal ‘Doesn’t Get A Penny Of Subsidies’.)

Satanic Gift

and on the other hand, facts:

In reality, the coal industry is heavily subsidized by the federal and state governments, enjoying explicit subsidies of billions of dollars a year, plus the indirect subsidy of free pollution that costs the United States 10,000 lives a year, destroys the land and water of mining communities, and destabilizes our climate. In September 2009, the Environmental Law Institute identified coal industry “subsidies of around $17 billion between 2002 and 2008″:

Credit for Production of Nonconventional Fuels ($14,097,000,000)– IRC Section 45K. This provision provides a tax credit for the production of certain fuels. Qualifying fuels include: oil from shale, tar sands; gas from geopressurized brine, Devonian shale, coal seams, tight formations, biomass, and coal-based synthetic fuels. This credit has historically primarily benefited coal producers.

Characterizing Coal Royalty Payments as Capital Gains ($986,000,000) – IRC Section 631(c). Income from the sale of coal under royalty contract may be treated as a capital gain rather than ordinary income for qualifying individuals.

Exclusion of Benefit Payments to Disabled Miners ($438,000,000) – 30 U.S.C. 922(c). Disability payments out of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund are not treated as income to the recipients.

Other-Fuel Excess of Percentage over Cost Depletion ($323,000,000)– IRC Section 613. Taxpayers may deduct 10 percent of gross income from coal production.

Credit for Clean Coal Investment ($186,000,000)– IRC Sections 48A and 48B. Available for 20 percent of the basis of integrated gasification combined cycle property and 15 percent of the basis for other advanced coal-based generation technologies.

Special Rules for Mining Reclamation Reserves ($159,000,000) – IRC Section 468. This deduction is available for early payments into reserve trusts, with eligibility determined by the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and the Solid Waste Management Act. The amounts attributable to mines rather than solid-waste facilities are conservatively assumed to be one-half of the total.

84-month Amortization Period for Coal Pollution Control ($102,000,000) – IRC Section 169(d)(5). Extends the amortization period used in calculating the deduction from the generally applicable 60-month period available for other types of pollution control facilities.

Expensing Advanced Mine Safety Equipment ($32,000,000) – IRC Section 179E. The costs of qualifying mine safety equipment may be expensed rather than recovered through depreciation.

Black Lung Disability Trust Fund ($1,035,000,000)– As industry excise tax payments did not sufficiently cover early benefits payments, the BLDTF was given “indefinite authority to borrow” from the U.S. General Fund, and bailed out for $6.498 billion, 13 percent of which is relevant to the 2002-2008 period.

In addition, Synapse Energy Economics found that the government subsidizes the coal industry through several other avenues:

Financial support for the World Bank and other international financial institutions that finance fossil fuel use and extraction. Since 1994, these institutions have provided $137 billion in direct and indirect financial support for new coal-fired power plants.

U.S. Treasury Department’s backing of tax-exempt bonds and federally subsidized taxable Build America Bonds for use in the electric sector. $81 billion in tax-exempt debt was issued between 2002 and 2006 for electric power, most for coal plants.

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service provision of loans, loan guarantees, and lien accommodations to public power companies that are investing in new or existing coal plants.

Tax credits, loans, and loan guarantees through the U.S. Department of Energy. In 2009, DOE issued $5.9 billion in loan guarantees for advanced coal projects.

Furthermore, cash-strapped state governments give millions of dollars in subsidies to coal, including $115 million from Kentucky, and $26 million from Virginia. In 2008, then-Gov. Manchin himself offered Appalachian Fuel $200 million in subsidies for a liquid coal plant.

So I guess you can do your own math and decide if these constitute pennies worth of government subsidies, or just pixie dust.

Written by Seth Anderson

February 3rd, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Posted in environment,politics

Tagged with ,

hexavalent chromium found in drinking water in Chicago and elsewhere

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Tracing Patterns in the Air

[Lake Michigan, near Green Bay, WI]

Hexavalent chromium1 found in drinking water in Chicago and elsewhere, and yet the EPA refuses to add it to their list of toxins to pay attention to. Criminal oversight, if you ask me.

Michael Hawthorne writes, in part:

The cancer-causing metal made infamous by the movie “Erin Brockovich” is turning up in tap water from Chicago and more than two dozen other cities, according to a new study that urges federal regulators to adopt tougher standards.

Even though scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Toxicology Program have linked the ingestion of hexavalent chromium to cancer, the EPA doesn’t require Chicago or other cities to test for the toxic metal. Nor does the EPA limit the dangerous form of chromium in drinking water.

To take a snapshot of what is flowing through taps across the nation, the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based research and advocacy organization, hired an independent laboratory that found the metal in treated drinking water from 31 cities. The amount in Lake Michigan water pumped to 7 million people in Chicago and its suburbs was 0.18 parts per billion, three times higher than a safety limit California officials proposed last year.

A handful of other cities were significantly above the proposed California limit, including Norman, Okla.; Honolulu; Riverside, Calif.; and Madison, Wis., according to a report to be released Monday. Levels in Milwaukee water were the same as in Chicago.

(click to continue reading Pollution: Dangerous form of chromium found in drinking water in Chicago, other cities – chicagotribune.com.)

We’ve used a reverse osmosis water filter for many years, I hope it filters out hexavalent chromium. Seems like it does

A Screaming Comes Across the Sky

So what is the main cause of this pollutant? Besides a lax, underfunded EPA that is? Industry, of course. Industry that spends millions of dollars defeating regulations that would at least mitigate some of this contamination.

Last year alone, records show, the U.S. Steel and Arcelor Mittal mills dumped a combined 3,100 pounds of chromium into Lake Michigan and its tributaries, less than 9 miles away from Chicago’s water-intake crib off 68th Street. (The federal Toxics Release Inventory doesn’t require industry to report specific types of the metal, but chromium-6 and chromium-3 convert into the other form and back in the environment.)

Indiana officials once sought to relax limits on chromium discharges from U.S. Steel’s massive Gary Works, the largest industrial polluter on the Great Lakes.…Industry has fought for years to block tougher federal and state limits on chromium, which has contaminated drinking water supplies across the country. The award-winning movie “Erin Brockovich” dramatizes one of the most high-profile cases: a miles-long plume of hexavalent chromium dumped by a utility in rural Hinkley, Calif., that led to a $333 million legal settlement over illnesses and cancers.

Update:

If you are curious what specific toxic chemicals are in your water, the New York Times took the data from the Environmental Working Group and turned it into a slick little database. Click through, and check out your community:

The 35-year-old federal law regulating tap water is so out of date that the water Americans drink can pose what scientists say are serious health risks — and still be legal. Examine whether contaminants in your water supply met two standards: the legal limits established by the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the typically stricter health guidelines. The data was collected by an advocacy organization, the Environmental Working Group, who shared it with The Times.

(click to continue reading What’s in Your Water – Interactive Feature – The New York Times.)

Footnotes:
  1. aka chromium-6, a clear cause in stomach cancers []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 19th, 2010 at 6:49 pm

China’s Push Into Wind Worries U.S. Industry

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Talk to the Wind

Well, on the one hand, the Chinese government fully supports and subsidizes its green power industries, and on the other hand, the U.S. government, and especially the Tea Baggers and Oil Slurper Republicans are dismissive of any energy policy that doesn’t focus solely on highways, natural gas, coal and oil. So, do the math: Chinese companies are going to be lapping the innovations of American companies until something changes. And it probably won’t.

Goldwind and other Chinese-owned companies plan a big push into the American wind power market in coming months.

While proponents say the Chinese manufacturers should be welcomed as an engine for creating more green jobs and speeding the adoption of renewable energy in this country, others see a threat to workers and profits in the still-embryonic American wind industry.

“We cannot sit idly by while China races to the forefront of clean energy production at the expense of U.S. manufacturing,” Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, said during a debate this year over federal subsidies for wind energy.

(click to continue reading China’s Push Into Wind Worries U.S. Industry – NYTimes.com.)

and World Trade Organization threats notwithstanding, China is serious:

American wind output still meets only a small portion of the nation’s overall demand for electricity — about 2 percent — compared with countries like Spain, which gets about 14 percent of its electrical power from the wind.

And the tepid United States economy, rock-bottom natural gas prices and lingering questions about federal wind energy policy have stalled the American wind industry, which currently represents only about 85,000 jobs. Even the American market leader, General Electric, reported a sharp drop in third-quarter turbine sales, compared with the same period last year.

All of which might indicate that dim market prospects await the wave of wind-turbine makers from China. But the Chinese companies can play a patient game because they have big backing from China’s government in the form of low-interest loans and other blandishments — too much help, in the critics’ view.

In the case of China, the Obama administration is investigating whether the Chinese may have violated World Trade Organization rules in subsidizing its clean-energy industry.

Mr. Rowland’s company, Goldwind, is the fledgling American arm of a state-owned Chinese company that has emerged as the world’s fifth-largest turbine maker: the Xinjiang Goldwind Science and Technology Company.

To help finance its overseas efforts, Xinjiang Goldwind raised nearly $1 billion in an initial public stock offering in Hong Kong in October — on top of a $6 billion low-interest loan agreement in May from the government-owned China Development Bank.

Goldwind, which set up a sales office in Chicago, has hired about a dozen executives, engineers and other employees so far. Most, like Mr. Rowland, are Americans already experienced in the wind energy field.

Not sure where exactly the Goldwind U.S. HQ will be located, but somewhere near me presumedly. Google Maps says on W. Washington, which is probably correct, but Goldwind’s site doesn’t yet reflect this.

Another major international player in the wind energy business will soon be calling Chicago home, as Chinese manufacturer Goldwind has announced plans to locate its North American headquarters in the city.

Goldwind’s move to the Windy City is the latest in a string of major wind firms that have looked to Chicago as the most logical business center for their US operations, attracted by the city’s central location, international airports, strong legal and financial expertise, and an experienced, educated workforce.

The firm also announced it has hired a talented pair of new executives to head the company, including Tim Rosenzweig as CEO and Matthew Olive as Director of Sales, both well-seasoned wind industry officials.

(click to continue reading Goldwind to Locate US Headquarters in Chicago, Hires Executive Staff – News – The Illinois Wind Energy Association.)

However, honestly, as a consumer, I’d happily purchase a home windmill from any manufacturer, regardless of geopolitical concerns. Jingoism doesn’t really factor in. And I’d be happy if my cousin got a job with Goldwind, or some other foreign green energy company. If the US is too short-sighted to encourage alternative energy companies, well, c’est la vie.

Written by Seth Anderson

December 16th, 2010 at 9:46 am

Gulf Coast Tourism Biz Asks BP For Handout

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Nicely done, tourism boards, begging for cash before the cleanup is even completed, much less paid for. How about BP stops the leak first, cleans up the leak second, pays the fishermen and other Gulf workers who have lost their livelihood third, and about a dozen other agenda items before spending money on advertising.

Meditation with Cyprus Trees

Even as BP struggles to control the oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico and government authorities and scientists struggle to determine the extent of the environmental damage, Gulf Coast states have landed on a way for the oil company to start making amends: shoring up their tourism industry with advertising dollars.

Joe Raedle NO VACATION: Florida Gov. Crist said a campaign is ‘critical to our economic survival.’ Authorities in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida have turned to the energy giant to fund ad campaigns, fearing that their summer-tourism business will disappear as major media outlets continue to fill the news cycle with reports and images of the catastrophe. There’s a lot at stake. According to figures cited by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Gulf of Mexico’s shores and beaches stretching from Texas to Florida support a $20 billion tourist industry. “We just want to get the word out that we are open for business,” said Kenneth Montana, president of the Harrison County Tourism Commission, the convention and business district bureau on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

(click to continue reading Gulf Coast’s $20B Tourism Biz Asks BP to Foot Ad Bill – Advertising Age – News.)

But hey, if BP is just handing out money, I’ll take some too. Where do I sign up? 

Written by Seth Anderson

May 17th, 2010 at 8:37 am

BP Has a History of Screwing Up

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Roiling

British Petroleum1 is just not having a good week. Don’t worry about them though, they won’t have any real penalties, based on previous problems BP has skated away from.

Despite those repeated promises to reform, BP continues to lag other oil companies when it comes to safety, according to federal officials and industry analysts. Many problems still afflict its operations in Texas and Alaska, they say. Regulators are investigating a whistle-blower’s allegations of safety violations at the Atlantis, one of BP’s newest offshore drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now BP is in the spotlight because of the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, which killed 11 people and continues to spew oil into the ocean. It is too early to say what caused the explosion. Other companies were also involved, including Transocean, which owned and operated the drilling rig, and Halliburton, which had worked on the well a day before the explosion.

(click to continue reading BP Has a History of Blasts and Oil Spills – NYTimes.com.)

Because BP just doesn’t give a rats-ass, and nobody is making them care either

But BP, the nation’s biggest oil and gas producer, has a worse health, environment and safety record than many other major oil companies, according to Yulia Reuter, the head of the energy research team at RiskMetrics, a consulting group that assigns scores to companies based on their performance in various categories, including safety.

BP Amoco is not greener than me

And…

government officials say that they are troubled by the continuation of hazardous practices at BP’s refineries and Alaskan oil operations despite warnings from regulators.

For example, last year the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found more than 700 violations at the Texas City refinery — many concerning faulty valves, which are critical for safety given the high temperatures and pressures. The agency fined BP a record $87.4 million, which was more than four times the previous record fine, also to BP, for the 2005 explosion.

Another refinery, in Toledo, Ohio, was fined $3 million two months ago for “willful” safety violations, including the use of valves similar to those that contributed to the Texas City blast.

“BP has systemic safety and health problems,” said Jordan Barab, the assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. “They need to take their intentions and apply them much more effectively on the ground, where the hazards actually lie.”

Gas At Last

and…

Problems also remain in Alaska. In January, leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent BP a letter highlighting “serious safety and production incidents” over the last two years in Prudhoe Bay, the nation’s largest oil field.

So you make up your own mind: is BP cavalier about drilling safety? Or do they just consistently have “bad” luck, year after year after year…

Footnotes:
  1. as BP plc used to be known as []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 9th, 2010 at 8:12 am

Do Not Listen to Right Wing Weathermen

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So amazing that public opinion can be such at odds with scientific fact. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, people believe in witches and angels and so forth.

Out of your cloud again

Elizabeth Kolbert, of the New Yorker, writes:

Joe Bastardi, who goes by the title “expert senior forecaster” at AccuWeather, has a modest proposal. Virtually every major scientific body in the world has concluded that the planet is warming, and that greenhouse-gas emissions are the main cause. Bastardi, who holds a bachelor’s degree in meteorology, disagrees. His theory, which mixes volcanism, sunspots, and a sea-temperature trend known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, is that the earth is actually cooling. Why don’t we just wait twenty or thirty years, he proposes, and see who’s right? This is “the greatest lab experiment ever,” he said recently on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show.

Bastardi’s position is ridiculous (which is no doubt why he’s often asked to air it on Fox News). Yet there it was on the front page of the Times last week. Among weathermen, it turns out, views like Bastardi’s are typical. A survey released by researchers at George Mason University found that more than a quarter of television weathercasters agree with the statement “Global warming is a scam,” and nearly two-thirds believe that, if warming is occurring, it is caused “mostly by natural changes.” (The survey also found that more than eighty per cent of weathercasters don’t trust “mainstream news media sources,” though they are presumably included in this category.)

Why, with global warming, is it always one step forward, two, maybe three steps back?

[Click to continue reading Weathermen, and other climate change skeptics : The New Yorker]

Wrap Your Dreams In Troubles

and on the crazy, oft-repeated assertion that somehow a mistake in a United Nations Report invalidated the entire evidence for global climate change:

The e-mail brouhaha was followed by—and immediately confused with—another overblown controversy, about a mistake in the second volume of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report, from 2007. On page 493 of the nine-hundred-and-seventy-six-page document, it is asserted, incorrectly, that the Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035. (The report cites as a source for this erroneous information a report by the World Wildlife Fund.) The screw-up, which was soon acknowledged by the I.P.C.C. and the W.W.F., was somehow transformed by commentators into a reason to doubt everything in the three-volume assessment, including, by implication, the basic laws of thermodynamics. The “new scandal (already awarded the unimaginative name of ‘Glaciergate’) raises further challenges for a scientific theory that is steadily losing credibility,” James Heiser wrote on the Web site of the right-wing magazine New American.

No one has ever offered a plausible account of why thousands of scientists at hundreds of universities in dozens of countries would bother to engineer a climate hoax. Nor has anyone been able to explain why Mother Nature would keep playing along; despite what it might have felt like in the Northeast these past few months, globally it was one of the warmest winters on record.

The message from scientists at this point couldn’t be clearer: the world’s emissions trajectory is extremely dangerous. Goofball weathermen, Climategate, conspiracy theories—these are all a distraction from what’s really happening. Which, apparently, is what we’re looking for.

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2010/04/12/100412taco_talk_kolbert#ixzz0kbr0IhSj

Mind boggling, and why worry about the small stuff in our daily lives? We’re all going to drown soon as the morons yell down the scientists and influence the politicians to ignore the problem, and we pass the point of No Return.

One final point: I did not realize this schmuck Joe Bastardi1 worked for AccuWeather. I’m deleting their apps from my iPhone and iPad. Why support this asshole?

Footnotes:
  1. I’m not making the obvious joke about his name as I’m sure so many have before me []

Written by Seth Anderson

April 9th, 2010 at 7:39 am

Shut Fisk and Crawford Coal Plants

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Shuttering the damn things would be my preference – I can see the Fisk Coal plant from my window, spewing all sorts of toxins, and I don’t even live that close by.

Tales of the Towering Dead

Owners of two coal-fueled power plants on Chicago’s Southwest Side would have to clean them up within the next five years — or shut them down — under a proposal being pushed by an interesting coalition of aldermen and a Chicago environmental group.

   The proposed ordinance is aimed at the circa-1920s Fisk plant in Pilsen and the Crawford plant in Little Village, both now operated by Midwest Generation LLC.

Under its terms, scrubbers and related anti-pollution equipment would have to be installed by 2013-15, four to five years earlier than now required by state regulators.

   “The purpose is to get two of the oldest, dirtiest coal plants located in any urban neighborhood cleaned up soon,” said Howard Learner, executive director of Chicago’s Environmental Law and Policy Center.

    “These are the two biggest (single) point sources of pollution in the city,” Mr. Learner added. But modernization of the plants repeatedly has been deferred, and the city now has an interest in making the plants “clean up or shut down,” he said.

   A statement e-mailed by Alderman Joseph Moore (49th) said the measure will be co-sponsored by him and colleagues including Sandi Jackson (7th), Eugene Schulter (47th) and Toni Preckwinkle (4th).

   Ms. Preckwinkle’s presence is particularly notable since she is the Democratic nominee to head the Cook County Board and is heavily favored to win that position in the November general election.

[Click to continue reading Push begins to ‘clean up or shut’ Fisk, Crawford coal power plants | Greg Hinz | Crain’s Chicago Business]

Cleaning them up so they fit current EPA standards would be a positive step, but would mean that lots of toxins would still be allowed, just not quite as much.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 8th, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Yemen chews itself to death over thirst for narcotic qat

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California may have its iceberg lettuce addiction to blame for its drought, but Yemen’s water drought has a more direct cause: drugs. In this case khat (sometimes spelled qat).

Blue Ball

There’s something a bit different about the three Rafik brothers proudly leading us around their field of lanky green trees, grown from the rich and rare soils of Wadi Dahr.

Unlike three-quarters of Yemeni men on the afternoon of a day off, there are no little green flecks around the teeth of Abdullah, Nabil and Ahmed: they are not chewing qat, they are growing it.

The bitter and mildly narcotic leaf is key to Yemen’s economy, and yet its enormous need for water is on course to make the capital, Sana’a, the first in the world to die of thirst. With the problem extending across the nation, the country is almost literally chewing itself to death.

From high on the scorched brown rock face that surrounds the Wadi Dahr valley, half an hour’s drive north-west of Sana’a, the fertile carpet of vegetation below looks miraculous. Like most of Yemen, these northern mountains are a dry and barren land. But the irrigation needed to grow qat, coupled with an exploding population, means Sana’a’s water basin is emptying out at a staggering rate: four times as much water is taken out of the basin as falls into it each year.

Most experts predict Sana’a, the fastest-growing capital in the world at 7% a year, will run out of economically viable water supplies by 2017. That is the same year the World Bank says Yemen will cease earning income from its oil, which currently accounts for three-quarters of the state’s revenues.

[Click to continue reading Yemen threatens to chew itself to death over thirst for narcotic qat plant |Environment |guardian.co.uk]

Wikipedia has this to say about khat since I’ve never tried it either:

The khat plant is known by a variety of names, such as qat and gat in Yemen, qaat and jaad in Somalia, and chat in Ethiopia. It is also known as Jimma in the Oromo language. Khat has been grown for use as a stimulant for centuries in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. There, chewing khat predates the use of coffee and is used in a similar social context.

Its fresh leaves and tops are chewed or, less frequently, dried and consumed as tea, in order to achieve a state of euphoria and stimulation; it also has anorectic side-effects. Its use is generally not limited by religion, though the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (along with its Eritrean counterpart) has forbidden Christians from using it due to its stimulating effects.

The stimulant effect of the plant was originally attributed to “katin”, cathine, a phenethylamine-type substance isolated from the plant. However, the attribution was disputed by reports showing the plant extracts from fresh leaves contained another substance more behaviorally active than cathine. In 1975, the related alkaloid cathinone was isolated, and its absolute configuration was established in 1978. Cathinone is not very stable and breaks down to produce cathine and norephedrine. These chemicals belong to the PPA (phenylpropanolamine) family, a subset of the phenethylamines related to amphetamines and the catecholamines epinephrine and norepinephrine.

Both of khat’s major active ingredients – cathine and cathinone – are phenylalkylamines, meaning they are in the same class of chemicals as amphetamines. In fact, cathinone and cathine have a very similar molecular structure to amphetamine.

When khat leaves dry, the more potent chemical, cathinone, decomposes within 48 hours leaving behind the milder chemical, cathine. Thus, harvesters transport khat by packaging the leaves and stems in plastic bags or wrapping them in banana leaves to preserve their moisture and keep the cathinone potent. It is also common for them to sprinkle the plant with water frequently or use refrigeration during transportation.

Written by Seth Anderson

February 26th, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Posted in environment

Tagged with , ,

EPA Plans to slowly regulate emissions

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Speaking of obstructionist asses in the US Senate1, note how Senator Rockefeller words his plea to the EPA.

Sun Like a Drug

Facing wide criticism over their recent finding that greenhouse gases endanger the public welfare, top Environmental Protection Agency officials said Monday that any regulation of such gases would be phased in gradually and would not impose expensive new rules on most American businesses.

The E.P.A.’s administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, wrote in a letter to eight coal-state Democrats who have sought a moratorium on regulation that only the biggest sources of greenhouse gases would be subjected to limits before 2013. Smaller ones would not be regulated before 2016, she said.

“I share your goals of ensuring economic recovery at this critical time and of addressing greenhouse gas emissions in sensible ways that are consistent with the call for comprehensive energy and climate legislation,” Ms. Jackson wrote.

The eight Democratic senators, led by John D. Rockefeller IV(Coal) of West Virginia, said hugely significant decisions about energy, the economy and the environment should be made by elected representatives, not by federal bureaucrats.

The senators, who earlier questioned broad cap-and-trade legislation pushed by the Obama administration, join a number of Republican lawmakers, industry groups and officials from Texas, Alabama and Virginia in challenging the proposed E.P.A. regulations of industrial sources. Senate Republicans are going a step further, seeking to prevent the agency from taking any action to limit greenhouse gases, which are tied to global warming.

[Click to continue reading E.P.A. Plans to Phase in Regulation of Emissions – NYTimes.com]

Don’t do anything, in other words. Senator Rockefeller (Coal) wants climate change policy making to come back to the Senate where it can die the Death of the Thousand Cuts and Additions2, and generally get debated until we’re all dead. In the last 10 years, what climate change policy has the Senate actually passed into law, Senator Rockerfeller (Coal)? I have exactly zero faith in the US Senate accomplishing anything productive, not unless LBJ rises from the grave to give some of the nattering nabobs of the Senate The Treatment.

Footnotes:
  1. aren’t we always??!! []
  2. sometimes called amendments []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 23rd, 2010 at 8:31 am

Obstructionists As the World Burns

with 2 comments

Jeff Goodell wrote, back in January, 2010

Motion is Life

Our collective response to the emerging catastrophe verges on suicidal. World leaders have been talking about tackling climate change for nearly 20 years now — yet carbon emissions keep going up and up. “We are in a race against time,” says Rep. Jay Inslee, a Democrat from Washington who has fought for sharp reductions in planet-warming pollution. “Mother Nature isn’t sitting around waiting for us to get our political act together.” In fact, our failure to confront global warming is more than simply political incompetence. Over the past year, the corporations and special interests most responsible for climate change waged an all-out war to prevent Congress from cracking down on carbon pollution in time for Copenhagen. The oil and coal industries deployed an unprecedented army of lobbyists, spent millions on misleading studies and engaged in outright deception to derail climate legislation. “It was the most aggressive and corrupt lobbying campaign I’ve ever seen,” says Paul Begala, a veteran Democratic consultant.

[well, until the banking lobby got ramped up]

By preventing meaningful action in Copenhagen, the battle to kill the climate bill provided the world’s biggest polluters with a lucrative victory — one that comes at the rest of the world’s expense. “In the long term, the fossil-fuel industry is going to lose this war,” says Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “But in the short term, they are doing everything they can to delay the revolution. For them, what this fight is really about is buying precious time to maximize profits from carbon sources. It’s really no more complicated than that.”

[Click to continue reading As the World Burns : Rolling Stone]

and by focusing more energy on healthcare reform, the climate bill didn’t get passed either. What will happen in 2010? The U.S. Senate has dozens of high profile bills sitting on its agenda, bills that passed the US House, but the Senators seem more interested in cheap showmanship and posturing. I guess that isn’t new, but it is frustrating.

The Republican Party1 is slurping up energy lobby dollars of course, and predictably are opposed to any change to the status quo.

Tales of the Towering Dead

The most credible analysis of the bill2, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, found that the measure would cost most families no more than $175 a year — the equivalent of “about a postage stamp a day,” Markey says. But the Heritage Foundation is nothing if not a big, well-greased disinformation machine. “We noticed that every time a constituent came in to talk to us about the bill, they would be quoting the same numbers,” says one congressional staffer. “We knew they were a lie, but they were everywhere.”

Energy lobbyists found a willing ally in the Republican Party, which had decided to deny any legislative victory to President Obama — even if it meant cooking the planet in the process. Rep. Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas who had been replaced by Waxman as chair of the House energy committee, pledged to launch “crafty” attacks on the climate bill, comparing the GOP’s battle plan to “guerrilla warfare.”

Gah, we need a new political party, one that believes in science, in civil liberties, and the will of the people. Not going to happen in my lifetime unfortunately, and not unless there are drastic changes to how elections are paid for.

Shrieks and Secrets

While Big Oil and Big Coal worked to whip up public hysteria, their Republican allies moved to block the climate bill in the Senate. The most unexpected and influential voice proved to be John McCain, who had long been a champion of climate legislation. The Arizona senator was highly respected by environmental and business leaders for his grasp of both the science and economics of global warming. Even while he was busy selling his soul to the far right during the presidential campaign, he called climate change “a test of foresight, of political courage and of the unselfish concern that one generation owes to the next.” But when the opportunity to show some political courage of his own arrived, McCain executed a bizarre about-face. The industry-friendly bill passed by the House, he now declared — a measure modeled on the cap-and-trade bill he had co-sponsored with Joe Lieberman — was “the worst example of legislation I’ve seen in a long time.”

Senate veterans were stunned. “McCain is still licking his wounds from the election,” says one insider who recently met with the senator. “He may eventually do something on this, but he wants Obama to come to him and ask for help.”

As they had in the House, Republicans in the Senate decided to obstruct the climate bill at every turn. Leading the charge was Sen. James Inhofe, the former chair of the Senate environment committee, who has not let the fact that the Arctic is melting before our very eyes stop him from continuing to proclaim that global warming is a “hoax.” When Boxer, the committee’s new chair, tried to advance the climate bill, Inhofe launched a number of procedural maneuvers designed to stall the bill, such as calling for more analysis from the EPA. “We all knew it was a game,” says one Senate staffer. When Boxer finally forced a vote on the bill in November, Inhofe and his fellow Republicans on the committee didn’t even bother to show up.

Democrats from energy-producing states — including Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Jim Webb of Virginia and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas — also tried to put the brakes on climate legislation, siding with Republicans who demanded that the bill earn a 60-vote supermajority for passage. By last fall, the Obama administration was forced to acknowledge that the battle was lost. “Obviously, we’d like to be through the process,” Browner, the new climate czar, conceded in October. “But that’s not going to happen. We will go to Copenhagen with whatever we have.” Inhofe put it even more bluntly. “We won, you lost,” he boasted to Boxer’s face. “Get a life.”

The Senate’s failure to act helped torpedo the talks in Copenhagen, which not only failed to produce a binding treaty but postponed meaningful action until 2015. It has also left Obama with no clear strategy of how to move forward.

Footnotes:
  1. and some short-sighted Democrats as well []
  2. H.R. 2454 – American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 23rd, 2010 at 8:08 am