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Obama silent on climate change in big Iowa energy speech

Obama in Newton, IowaObama's energy speech: lots about wind, nothing about climate. (Photo by Darin Leach for USDA.)

A version of this post originally appeared on Climate Progress.

Last month, the White House edited climate change from Obama’s Earth Day 2012 proclamation. That was after the president omitted any discussion of climate change from his State of the Union address.

But then, in a Rolling Stone interview, Obama unexpectedly broke out of his self-imposed silence on climate change, saying he thought climate change would be a campaign issue.

Of course, it would be hard for climate to be a campaign issue if the president doesn’t actually talk about it in public. After all, his challenger Mitt Romney seems unlikely to bring it up, having Etch-a-Sketched his position on that subject many times. And Lord knows that media isn’t itching to talk about climate.

So it was disappointing again once again that on Thursday the president reverted to form in his big speech on energy at TPI Composites, a wind-blade manufacturing plant in Newton, Iowa.

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Before Rio Earth Summit, let’s put pressure on world leaders to end fossil fuel subsidies

Bill McKibben at 350.org's recent Rally to End Fossil Fuel Subsidies. (Photo by 350.org.)

In just a few weeks, world leaders are converging on Rio for a landmark “Earth Summit” to talk about sustainability issues -- but it’s time for them to stop talking and start doing. And we know where they can begin.

This year our governments will hand nearly hundreds of billions of dollars in government subsidies to the coal, gas, and oil industries. Instead, they should cut them off.

Cutting fossil fuel subsidies could actually take a giant step towards solving the climate crisis: Phasing out these subsidies would prevent gigatonnes of carbon emissions and help make clean energy cheaper than fossil fuels.

And here’s the thing: This demand is completely reasonable -- so reasonable that the leaders of the big countries have already agreed to it. The G20 promised in 2009 that fossil fuel subsidies would be phased out in the “medium term.” But the political power of the corporate polluters scares them, and so no nation has yet followed through.

If we want real action to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, we need to give world leaders a people-powered push as the Rio Summit approaches -- and that push starts now with this global call to action.

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Senate Republicans join House in second-guessing military leaders on biofuels

Soldier looking depressedThey're undermining us again?

Earlier this week, I wrote about the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee voting through a provision that would kill the U.S. military's ambitious biofuels program. Last night, the Senate Armed Services Committee did the same, and worse. It voted not only to block purchase of any fuel more expensive than fossil fuels, but to "prohibit the construction of a biofuels refinery or any other facility or infrastructure used to refine biofuels unless the requirement is specifically authorized by law." Congress micromanaging military energy strategy: What could go wrong?

"But David," you're saying, "Democrats have a majority in the Senate. The committee has 14 Democrats and only 12 Republicans. How could this happen?"

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Republicans try to force the military to use dirty energy it doesn’t want

Photo by the U.S. Army.

The U.S. military recognizes that dependence on fossil fuels is a threat to U.S. strategic influence and its own operational effectiveness. With that in mind, it's trying to make itself lighter and leaner, reducing energy consumption at bases and on the battlefield while working to develop fuel alternatives for its ship and plane fleets. Republicans have been quietly grumbling about this for a while; now they are openly opposing it. The GOP wastes no opportunity to boast of "supporting the troops," but that support apparently ends where Big Oil contributions begin.

Let's look at a few examples, shall we?

GOP tries to block use of cleaner fuels

Last week, the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee proposed a new Pentagon budget. Tucked away inside it was a provision that would prohibit the Department of Defense from buying any alternative fuels that cost more than conventional fossil fuels. TPM has the story.

Slate's Fred Kaplan laments that this provision would kill the $12 million "Green Strike Group" program the Navy is running, which would field a strike group running entirely on biofuels (and a nuclear-powered carrier) for a naval exercise in June. The Navy hopes to have an entire "Great Green Fleet" in the water by 2016.

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Could Romney’s scorn for wind power hurt him in the heartland?

Photo by Eric Tastad.

On Thursday, President Obama will visit TPI Composites, a wind manufacturer in Newton, Iowa (population, 15,254). There, he will reiterate his support for the Production Tax Credit (PTC), a federal support program that has helped drive wind's rapid expansion in the U.S. The PTC is now in peril, as Congress appears unlikely to renew it when it expires at the end of this year. The loss of the PTC would put tens of thousands of current jobs -- and almost 100,000 future jobs [PDF] -- at risk.

Newton's experience is illustrative, so let's recount a little history.

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Let’s end polluter welfare

Sen. Bernie Sanders rallies supporters of the End Polluter Welfare Act.

At a time when we have more than $15 trillion in national debt, American taxpayers are set to give away over $110 billion to the oil, gas, and coal industries over the next decade. Clearly, we cannot afford it. The five largest oil companies made over $1 trillion in profits in the last decade, with some paying no federal income taxes for part of that time, so they certainly do not need it.

It is time we end this corporate welfare in the form of massive subsidies and tax breaks [PDF] to hugely profitable fossil-fuel corporations. It is time for Congress to support the interests of the taxpayer instead of powerful special interests like the oil and coal industries. That is why I joined with Rep. Keith Ellison to introduce legislation in the Senate and the House called the End Polluter Welfare Act. Our proposal is backed by grassroots and public-interest organizations 350.org, Friends of the Earth, Taxpayers for Common Sense, and many others.

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U.S. military kicks more ass by using less fossil-fuel energy

soldier with solar panelGoing solar in Afghanistan. (Photo by U.S. Marine Corps)

This is my contribution to a dialogue on the military and clean energy being hosted by National Journal.

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To understand the promise of renewable energy for the U.S. military, it helps to start as far from Washington, D.C., as possible. (This is true for most forms of understanding.) Start far from the politicians, even from the military brass, far from the rooms where big-money decisions are made, far out on the leading edge of the conflict, with a small company of Marines in Afghanistan's Sangin River Valley.

Not long ago, for a three-day mission out of a forward operating base in Afghanistan, each Marine would have humped between 20 and 35 pounds of batteries. One of the reasons Marines are so lethal in such small numbers today is that they are constantly connected by radios and computers. But radios and computers require a constant supply of batteries, brought by convoy over some of the deadliest roads on earth and then piled on the backs of Marines in highly kinetic environments.

In late 2010, India Company, from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, tried something new. They packed Solar Portable Alternative Communications Energy Systems, or SPACES -- flexible solar panels, 64 square inches, that weigh about 2.5 pounds each. One 1st Lieutenant from India 3/5 later boasted that his patrol shed 700 pounds.

"We stayed out for three weeks," he said, "and didn't need a battery resupply once."

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Peabody Coal buys coal from U.S. taxpayers for cheap, sells it abroad for huge profit

coal protest banner: "Coal is criminal in a warming world"Photo by Takver.

Yesterday, I wrote about the issue of public land in the Powder River Basin being leased to coal companies for cheap, so they can strip-mine it and sell the coal abroad at an enormous profit.

Also yesterday, the feds held a "competitive lease sale" for the South Porcupine Tract, which contains almost 402 million tons of mineable coal.

Guess how many companies bid in this "competitive auction"? One: Peabody Coal, the company that filed the original application [PDF] for the lease.

This was actually the second auction for the tract. The first ended with no sale because BLM rejected Peabody's lowball offer of $0.90 a ton. The winning price in Thursday's sale? $1.11 per ton.

Read more: Coal, Energy Policy, Politics

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A national clean energy standard is good policy — and good politics

A version of this article originally appeared on Climate Progress.

Do anti-clean energy senators have any idea what Americans want? If Thursday morning’s hearing on the Clean Energy Standard (CES) Act of 2012 is any guide, they don’t. The truth is that Americans support a clean energy target for this country. Senators should listen to the American public and pass this bill.

Let’s start at the beginning. In her opening remarks, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) asked, “To me, the biggest question … is whether Americans really want a CES?”

If that’s the biggest question, then it’s time for the Senate to pass the Clean Energy Standard Act, because the American people want more clean energy.

Read more: Energy Policy, Politics

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Big Coal’s new anti-Obama ad reeks of desperation

The U.S. coal industry is flailing. Utilities are stampeding from coal to natural gas and coal mining companies are seeing their stock prices plunge. The industry is responding the way it always has to threat: blaming government regulation and pouring money into influence peddling.

Judging from their latest efforts, however, they have very little to work with. The latest flail is to try to make a big deal out of the fact that the Obama administration recently added a bit on "clean coal" to its "all of the above" energy page. It's Energywebpagegate! Or something.

From such thin threads is America's Power attempting to weave an attack: