Posts Tagged ‘energy & climate’

The next step

Yesterday, President Barack Obama called on a federal appeals court to reinstate the moratorium on deepwater drilling. Responding to a complaint filed by the oil industry, a Louisiana judge overturned the ban back on June 24.

If we have learned anything from this spill it is that we know very little about the risks of offshore drilling. Oil companies have proven they do not have the ability to handle these massive disasters. Until mechanisms are put in place that can effectively control and regulate oil extraction, deepwater drilling must remain suspended. Even our best scientists and workers cannot handle one oil spill. We certainly couldn’t even begin to handle two, especially during hurricane season when the winds and rough seas will make cleanup and containment even harder.

The president is right that oil drilling must remain suspended. Hopefully, the appeals court will agree.

Whatever the appeals court decides, the next step will be to establish a new team to regulate the industry. Experts and commentators, including Public Citizen President Robert Weissman, have suggested these people could come from existing agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency or the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. Suspending drilling is not enough because eventually, oil drilling will have to resume. When it does, there needs to be a strong regulation process in place to help prevent future catastrophes.

Don’t you think it’s time to develop some cleaner energy options? In the meantime, tell President Obama to ban offshore drilling.

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According to The New York Times, the Fish and Wildlife Service concurred with a 2007 Minerals Management Service report that declared the risks posed by an oil spill insignificant. Although it agreed with the Minerals Management Service’s characterization of the risks as “low,” the Fish and Wildlife Service did make some minor suggestions that went largely ignored.

This story highlights what seems to be a trend not just among environmental regulators, but elsewhere in government as well: namely, a profound lack of accountability. The Fish and Wildlife Service, tasked (among other duties) with overseeing the protection of endangered species, ignored scientific findings that an oil spill could severely disrupt and harm the habitats of many plants and animals. The agency appears to have decided that ignoring the potential for disaster would be easier than confronting it.

We of course are upset (although unfortunately no longer surprised) by this behavior. The government has failed to effectively regulate for a long time. The House of Representatives just passed a compromise bill that promises to improve regulation of the financial industry; the Senate will vote on it in coming weeks. When will regulation of oil companies be seriously addressed?

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It has started. Thick, sludge-like oil from the BP spill has hit the shore of Louisiana marshlands, pictured above, all but ensuring this will be an environmental catastrophe.

NASA also released a photo today that shows a “massive column of oil extending out Southeast towards the open ocean.” This image will likely change the estimated extent of the spill and damage.

If that weren’t bad enough, meteorologists now say that the oil has spread enough for the Loop Current to drag it through the Florida Keys, where tar balls (sticky clumps of decayed oil) have turned up in the past few days.

Treehugger posted a powerful video, “The Gulf Bleeding,” in which environmentalist John Wathen said, “For the first time in my environmental career, I find myself using the word hopeless.”

And through this environmental disaster, finger pointing continues but no punishments have been implemented. But we can take action. We can use our power as consumers to boycott the oil company responsible for the rig that caused the spill, BP — the oil company with the worst safety record in the country. Together, we can hold BP accountable.

Join Public Citizen in its campaign, 1,000,000 Strong to Boycott BP. Sign a petition letting BP know that their actions are inexusable and we won’t stand for it. We already have more than 9,500 signatures. Add yours now.

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How much does a pro-pollution amendment cost? From the looks of recent reports about the relationship between Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and a big energy lobbyist, at least about $35,000. That’s how much Duke Energy, Southern Co. and their executives gave to Sen. Murkowski’s campaign and leadership PAC so far in the cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

It’s no surprise then that Jeffery Holmstead, a registered lobbyist for clients Duke Energy and Southern Co., had extraordinary access to Murkowski – access to help craft an amendment to allow his clients to continue polluting. The amendment proposed by Sen. Murkowski would gut key provisions of the Clean Air Act. The Washington Post reports that Holmstead (also a former top official at the Environmental Protection Agency under George W. Bush) and another lobbyist, Roger Matella, were very hands-on in drafting the amendment:

In an interview, Holmstead said of the Murkowski amendment, ‘I certainly worked with her staff’ on the exact phrasing of the measure in September.

The Obama Administration has moved forward to regulate pollutants that cause climate change using the Clean Air Act. This critical step to rebuild our economy with clean energy, and to protect our health and our climate from global warming and pollution is under attack by the big polluters. And they have friends in high places. (more…)

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When I heard that the Environmental Protection Agency had finally released its 2007 endangerment finding for greenhouse gases, I was immediately reminded of one of the most perverse moments in Bush administration secrecy: the Unopened Email, which Jon Stewart lampooned back in the summer of 2008. The EPA’s draft policy statement, which had been kept secret until this week, was a required action on the road to regulating greenhouse gas emissions, after the Supreme Court decision in April 2007 in Massachusetts v. EPA. The finding expresses that EPA judges a pollutant to be a threat to public health and welfare and therefore regulation is warranted.

The Congressional hearings that followed in July 2008 were just as bizarre. Senator Barbara Boxer held up pages of the document provided by EPA that had been redacted with tape. She had been permitted to review the document, but not to disclose its contents, and she was clearly disturbed that this information would be kept secret.

Of course, at the time, as now, she was deep in a legislative battle to push action on regulating greenhouse gas, and the EPA statement could have been a powerful tool for making the case that decisive action was needed, that it was needed now, and that there was a path to cut greenhouse gas emissions and protect the climate. (more…)

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Ethanol is the energy policy fix that never quite works. It’s supported by a 45-cent-per-gallon subsidy, can’t be proven to be environmentally beneficial, and could ruin your engine if too much of it is blended with gasoline.

The EPA requested comments on a petition by Growth Energy filed earlier this year, to allow an increase in the allowable ethanol content of gasoline to rise from 10 percent to 15 percent. EPA has until December 1 to respond to the petition. But some Senators have supported an amendment that would require EPA to grant a waiver to allow ethanol blending up to 15 percent.

The big automobile manufacturer trade associations both expressed concern about raising the allowable ethanol content of gasoline to 15 percent. But recently, the automakers have moved to support additional research into the consequences of increasing the ethanol content of gasoline. (more…)

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Now that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has come up for air after a mad dash to reimburse dealers for cash for clunkers transactions completed in July and August, the agency has started to release (some) of the real data. And it looks like the glowing sound bytes of last month are giving way to some much less encouraging realities.

Let’s look at how the clunkers program shakes out now that the numbers are in. (more…)

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