The tar sands are rightly called one of the world's greatest environmental crimes, as I've written. No company that invests in the Canadian tar sands can legitimately call itself green. Yet BP, the oil company that lavished millions on advertising its move "Beyond Petroleum," announced this month it's putting $3 billion into this dirtiest of dirty fuels! BP is buying a half-share of the ironically named Sunrise field:
Santa moonlighting on K Street? Photo: iStockphoto I heard from someone in downtown D.C. this morning who ran into a guy in a Santa suit who handed him a flier saying, "even Santa is rethinking his position on coal!" Yes, really. From The Hill: Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC) is sending 30 Santas to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to deliver stockings filled with coal-shaped chocolate. The goal of the campaign is to shift coal’s image as a key contributor to global warming to a relatively cheap and increasingly clean provider of electricity. With supplies sufficient to turn the lights …
Let’s review what happened with the energy bill: The House and Senate each voted through energy bills. The Senate’s had a CAFE boost and a Renewable Fuel Standard; the House’s had a Renewable Energy Standard and a tax package to take subsidies from oil companies and give them to renewable energy. Nancy Pelosi battled for months with John Dingell, finally securing his support for a CAFE increase. The House then passed a bill that had all the provisions in it — CAFE, RFS, RES, and tax package. The White House threatened a veto. Republican Senators whined. Reid put the bill …
Passing an energy bill at any cost made us look weak, reduced climate change urgency, handed a significant victory to President Bush, and accomplished little of significance. If we had chosen an alternative path -- to take a stand with the fledgling U.S. renewables industry and challenge the obscenely rich oil and coal behemoths -- we would have lost, to be sure, but would have built political power, introduced a novel story, and strengthened ties with an important ally. In acquiescing to a stripped-down energy bill, U.S. environmentalists lost an opportunity to reshape our climate story, strengthen our relationship with the renewable energy sector, and draw a bright line that distinguishes genuine supporters of functional climate action from fair weather friends. Instead, we opted for scraps, gaining emissions reductions of small significance compared to the global problem, displaying political weakness in place of principled courage, and handing a propaganda victory to a president who is singularly responsible for blocking international climate action. Even environmentalists damned the final Senate version with faint praise. The "landmark" hailed by UCS also, in their words, "failed to take a giant step." NRDC called it a "down payment toward fighting global warming," and was "disappointed," and Environment America (formerly the environmental arm of U.S.PIRG) called the measure "historic," even as they observed, "big oil and big coal succeeded in stripping out ... very important parts of the bill." Press and editorial reactions were less equivocal, as this sampling of headlines shows:
Recently George Monbiot argued that humanity must figure out a way to leave the fossil fuels in the ground: Most of the governments of the rich world now exhort their citizens to use less carbon. They encourage us to change our lightbulbs, insulate our lofts, turn our televisions off at the wall. In other words, they have a demand-side policy for tackling climate change. But as far as I can determine, not one of them has a supply-side policy. None seeks to reduce the supply of fossil fuel. So the demand-side policy will fail. Every barrel of oil and tonne of coal that comes to the surface will be burned. In other words, things like fuel economy standards and efficient appliances won't help unless cars and appliances are powered by renewable energy (solar/wind/geothermal). The problem might be more manageable if we divide it into three parts: Active energy sources -- wind/solar/geothermal. Passive energy sources -- mostly in buildings, as detailed in David's recent excellent post . Design -- as in how to design cities, towns, and the their transportation systems. Once we have moved to renewable electricity and passive systems as the source of almost all of our energy needs, then we can keep the rest of the fossil fuels in the ground.
The Senate is debating the wide-ranging $500-plus billion omnibus spending package right now. Most of the points of contention are extremely important -- FOIA, defense spending -- but for the purposes of this site, a bit off-topic. It failed its most recent cloture vote on the question of war-funding (Republicans, of course, want more), and minority leader Mitch McConnell has basically promised it won't pass unless the Democrats cave. So if when that happens, I'll let you know. I'll also let you know if I hear (or am sent) any statements about the energy provisions, but for now, here's a bunch of info. There are indeed billions of dollars in allowances (though not all mandated subsidies) for nuclear energy programs. The amendment reads (PDF): For Department of Energy expenses including the purchase, construction, and acquisition of plant and capital equipment, and other expenses necessary for nuclear energy activities in carrying out the purposes of the Department of Energy Organization Act including the acquisition or condemnation of any real proper ty or any facility or for plant or facility acquisition, construction, or expansion, and the purchase of not to exceed 20 passenger motor vehicles for replacement only, including one ambulance, $970,525,000, to remain available until expended: Provided, That $233,849,000 is authorized to be appropriated for Project 99-D-143 Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility, Savannah River Site, South Carolina: Provided further, That the Department of Energy adhere strictly to Department of Energy Order 413.3A for Project 99-D-143. Whew! So, what, exactly, does DOE Order 413.3A mandate? Well, here's what the paper says (PDF):
The great climate debate was supposed to be yesterday, but it was not to be. My opponent, Dr. Tim Ball, was a no-show. He knew the debate started at 2:00 p.m., but got the time zone wrong. After he figured that out, his phone stopped working. Go figure. So it was just me, and I spent about 75 minutes answering questions that readers had left on Eric Berger's Sciguy site, as well as taking questions from the phone lines. Many of the questions were interesting and reasonable, and I very much appreciate the people that posed them. However, what would a climate change debate be without a few wackos? One caller asked (and later emailed me the same question): I would like to know if you really believe you and others like you can manage the climate of this planet? As the Wizard of Oz found out, there are unforeseen consequences to your actions. That's right, if the Wizard can't make good policy concerning flying monkeys, witches, and Judy Garland, what chance do we have of handling climate change? This caller will most definitely not like my suggestion that we geoengineer a cooler climate by sending up flying monkeys carrying mirrors to reflect sunlight back to space.
“I really would like to vote for this bill because we desperately need an energy bill. The world and particularly the United States faces a real challenge on energy in the future. But I cannot vote for this bill primarily because of the corn ethanol mandate. A recent article in The Economist noted that our use of corn for ethanol doubled the price of corn about a year ago. Farmers then moved lands from soybeans and what would have been in soybeans and wheat to corn. We now have further increased the cost of corn and we’ve increased the cost …
If you’d like to see our very own Sean Casten call the FutureGen clean coal project “maddeningly stupid” — about the only part of this segment that isn’t creepy and upsetting — you can do so here.
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