Somehow this one went under my radar last week, but I couldn’t let it slip by: WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The state of Alaska has sued the U.S. government, arguing that listing polar bears as a threatened species will hurt Alaskan oil and gas exploration, fisheries and tourism. The lawsuit, filed on Monday in federal court in Washington, seeks the withdrawal of a May 14 decision to list the big Arctic bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act because climate change is melting their sea ice habitat. [...] “Additional regulation of the species and its habitat under the Endangered Species …
Ever watch the cable news networks during the afternoon? You're bombarded with issue ad after issue ad. Well, imagine that every TV and radio station was like that 24 hours a day. That's local media here in D.C. And since the climate and energy debate began in earnest on Capitol Hill last summer, it seems like you can't get through one commercial break without hearing GM or Big Oil explain how they don't need big government telling them what to do (unless, of course, big government wants to tell them to drill for more oil). Every morning over breakfast, WTOP Radio gives me a steady diet of news, traffic, weather, and propaganda. But Monday morning brought a new twist that perked me up even before my organic coffee could kick in. It was an ad I'd heard before featuring actors pretending to be "average Joes" saying we need to drill anywhere Big Oil wants. Previously, it had closed with "paid for by the American Petroleum Institute." But this morning, the ad closed with "paid for by API." (To hear the ad without the tag line, go here and scroll down to "Times are changing.") Of course, if you look at the American Petroleum Institute's print ads, you won't even find an "API." They're tagged with "the people of America's oil and natural gas industry," which sounds vaguely like employees took up a collection on their own to buy the ad. Is Big Oil afraid of its own shadow?
Five pounds of stuff. That's what greeted me at this year's Netroots Nation '08 conference in Austin, Texas. As is the case with most conventions, registration came with a schwag bag loaded with magazines, pamphlets, and assorted trinkets from sponsors. I took the bag back to my hotel room and unpacked it one piece at a time, spreading the contents on my bed. (I actually had to stand on a chair to get a wide enough view to get all the schwag in one shot.) While most liberal and green conventions these days make at least token efforts to ease impacts -- an organic cotton bag, green trinkets -- the NN08 schwag bag didn't do anything to distinguish itself. Organizers of NN08 went out of their way to include the best and brightest voices of the environmental movement, not just as panelists but as keynote speakers. They've also pledged to green the event next year, holding it at Pittsburgh's convention center, a green building certified to LEED's gold level. But the schwag bag was only the first sign that NN08 would miss some key opportunities to cut the event's environmental footprint and direct dollars to green businesses.
One of the all-time great episodes of The Simpsons is "Marge vs. the Monorail," written by Conan O'Brien. The EPA fines Mr. Burns for dumping nuclear waste, leading to an unexpected cash windfall for Springfield. Marge suggests spending the money to repair the town's tattered infrastructure. But just as her proposal is about to pass, a fast-talking charlatan named Lyle Lanley arrives and sells the ever-gullible people of Springfield on a plan to build a monorail, climaxing with the monorail song (sung to the tune of "Trouble" from The Music Man). As the monorail plan passes, Marge remains unconvinced: Marge: I still think we should have used the money to fix Main Street. Homer: Well, you should have written a song like that guy. Now Newt Gingrich is ready to march into the halls of Congress to deliver his petition on opening up more of America's public lands to oil and gas drilling. He even still has floor privileges, so you can almost imagine him marching through the House with Republican leadership trailing behind, chanting drill, drill, drill. But drilling wouldn't solve our problems any more than the monorail solved Springfield's. Fortunately, we couldn't ask for a less-beloved figure to be trying to lead the American people in a sing-a-long. Would you believe he's nearly as unpopular as Dick Cheney?
Yesterday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he'd be open to letting Big Oil drill on previously-protected public lands. And now this: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on President Bush to release oil from the government's emergency reserve to knock down gasoline prices she says "are helping push the economy toward recession."Pelosi, D-Calif., in a letter to Bush noted that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve has been used three times before and each time the action has served to stabilize oil markets and lower gas prices. [...]Bush turned to the reserves when hurricanes Katrina and Rita disrupted oil supplies in 2005. A total of 21 million barrels were made available to refineries "with great effectiveness to address emergency energy needs in the crisis," according to an Energy Department inspector general's report. Hate to be the petroleum party pooper, but am I the only one who's worried about what happens if a major hurricane hits the Gulf of Mexico this summer? If we're pushing the post-hurricane panic button now, what do we push when there's actual panic? Can our panic meter go to 11?
With more coastline than any state in the lower 48 and about a tenth of its economy ($65 billion a year) based on tourism, Florida has more to lose than any other state from the threats of global warming. Rising sea levels creep closer to coastal development. Warmer tropics fuel stronger hurricanes. And higher ocean temperatures kill coral and harm fish populations, threatening the state's $4.5 billion sportfishing industry. Plenty of reasons that a report released yesterday should serve as a call to action on preparing for inevitable changes from global warming and cutting emissions now to avoid the worst impacts. Preparing for a Sea Change in Florida was produced by a broad coalition of environmental groups. The report makes several key recommendations:
Opponents of climate action launched a surprise assault last Friday night. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) led an attempt to add an amendment to the budget bill that Congress should hold off on enacting cap-and-trade legislation until China and India take more action. You'd expect Climate Security Act co-sponsors like Virginia's John Warner, Minnesota's Norm Coleman, Maine's Susan Collins, and North Carolina's Elizabeth Dole to oppose the amendment. But then another surprise -- South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, New Hampshire's Judd Gregg, Florida's Mel Martinez, Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, Kansas' Pat Roberts, Oregon's Gordon Smith, Maine's Olympia Snowe, Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, and New Hampshire's John Sununu also voted against it. In all, 61 senators voted to kill Sen. DeMint's amendment, with 12 Republicans joining nearly every present Democrat and independent (West Virginia's Sen. Robert Byrd voted for it). Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) then led a counterattack.
This just in from Associated Press: The Interior Department has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday to announce a decision on whether to list the polar bear as threatened and in need of protection under the Endangered Species Act.Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne proposed such protection 15 months ago because of the disappearance of Arctic sea ice, which is a primary habitat for the bear. Last September, scientists said up to two-thirds of the polar bears could disappear by mid-century because of sea ice loss due to global warming.However, it's not certain the bear will be listed as threatened. Recently the United States and Canada agreed to conduct additional research into the future survival of the bear. That memorandum did not mention global warming. You can read that memorandum of understanding signed by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne here [PDF]. It was signed back on May 8 but I haven't seen it reported anywhere. Weird. The science couldn't be more clear -- the polar bear is threatened by climate change and could be gone from U.S. soil (and ice) by mid-century. It's hard to imagine a decision not to protect the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act, even from the Bush administration. That would completely contradict evidence presented by the administration's own biologists and show that obstruction on climate action is more of a priority than protecting the polar bear.
California's outdoors industry -- wildlife watching, hunting, and fishing -- is an $8.2 billion-a-year business. That's roughly equivalent to the GDP of Cambodia. So imagine the shock waves sent by the state's first salmon shutdown: Salmon fishing was banned along the West Coast for the first time in 160 years Thursday, a decision that is expected to have a devastating economic impact on fishermen, dozens of businesses, tourism and boating. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez immediately declared a commercial fishery disaster, opening the door for Congress to appropriate money for anyone who will be economically harmed. Unfortunately, the forecast for salmon doesn't get much better from there, according to a new report released Thursday by the National Wildlife Federation and Planning and Conservation League Foundation. With salmon habitat already decimated by dams, climate change now threatens to warm their remaining cold water spawning grounds. What can be done to reverse the trend?