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Energy Policy


The only solution to high gas prices — with charts!

About a year ago, when the last episode of Gas Price Mania was gearing up, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) gave an extraordinary speech on the floor of the Senate. He explained that the price of gasoline is tied to the price of oil, the price of oil is tied to events outside America's control, and the only way to reduce vulnerability to gasoline and oil prices is to use less gasoline and oil. It's a simple truth, rarely spoken among national politicians.

Last week, Bingaman did it again, using handy charts blown up on poster board. First, he explained that the U.S. has very little control over oil and gasoline prices:


Meet the worst Senate amendment that ever lived

It’s ba-aack -- the Keystone XL pipeline, that is. The Senate is set to vote tomorrow on an amendment created by Big Oil wearing a Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) mask. The amendment would revive everyone’s favorite pipeline -- and, while it was at it, greenlight all the other oil-hungry environmental ruination that Republicans go in for.

The Senate defeated Keystone yet again last week, but Sen. Roberts included the pipeline in amendment #1826 of the Senate transportation bill (S. 1813). And that’s not the only Big Oil party favor he stuck in this grab bag of evil:

It would mandate drilling off of every coast in our nation and in the Arctic Refuge, allow oil shale development on millions of acres in America’s west, and allow the already-rejected Keystone XL pipeline to go forward.


Top 10 prices we want Newt to lower with his magic wand

Newt Gingrich with magic wandNewt Gingrich promises he'll lower gas prices to $2.50 a gallon once he gets to the White House. Now that we know he's in possession of a magic wand that can override global market forces, there are a few other items we'd like to see priced lower.

Space travel
Come on, Newt, you're supposed to be a big-idea man (and a giant Star Wars geek)! Why just lower the cost of car travel when you could lower the cost of space travel?


Zombie pipeline! Senate narrowly kills Keystone XL — for now

Photo by Rodolpho Reis

The Senate voted down legislation on Thursday that would have paved the way for the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline -- barely. Eleven Democrats joined 45 Republicans to vote in favor of the project, ignoring lobbying from President Obama himself. But the measure needed 60 votes to move forward, so despite support from the majority, it died.

Rest assured, however, that we haven’t seen the last of this undead monster.

Read more: Energy Policy, Oil


Engine failure: GOP’s signature highway bill sputters, dies

House Speaker John Boehner has given up on passing his pet highway bill. (Photo by Gage Skidmore.)

In an increasingly desperate attempt to save his signature, $260 billion highway bill from the junkyard, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) pleaded with fellow Republicans to get on the bandwagon this week, even threatening to go with the (gasp!) bipartisan Senate bill instead if they didn’t get in line. Now it looks like he has given up on passing his own bill altogether.

To anyone who has been watching this saga, it comes as no surprise that Boehner’s bill is in the ditch. The original proposal, floated in late January, would have cut all designated funding for mass transit, bike paths, and safe routes to school, and tied highway building to increased oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It also included a mandate to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Not a winning combination.


Does Romney secretly support ‘climate-change controls’?

Julian Robertson is betting than Romney really cares about the climate.

Cross-posted from ThinkProgress Green.

Mitt Romney's top individual donor is Environmental Defense Fund board member Julian H. Robertson Jr., who has given $1.3 million to the Romney super PAC Restore Our Future even though Romney has viciously attacked the climate cap-and-trade policies EDF supports. A spokesperson for the hedge-fund billionaire said Robertson is confident Romney would "do the right thing" if elected:

In terms of the environment and climate-change controls, which [Robertson] does believe is one of the most important issues the country and the world faces, he has confidence that Romney, once he’s in there, will do the right thing.


Batteries could make power grid unnecessary in some countries

One and a half billion citizens of planet Earth aren't connected to the power grid, and if Aquion Energy has its way, they will remain so forever. But not because they will be turned into Soylent Green! If that's what you were thinking.

Aquion specializes in making large batteries, cheaply. They don’t look like much -- they live in a former TV factory outside Pittsburgh, and you'll probably never buy any of their products. To the world's poor, however, they're working on something that could make a profound difference to their quality of life, reports Kevin Bullis at Technology Review.


Why climate change is irrelevant to clean energy

Maggie Koerth-Baker, science editor at BoingBoing, has written a book, and the introduction is available free online now. Here’s the basic idea: In America at least, if we want to get anything done on clean energy, we have to divorce it from conversations about climate change.


Bingaman’s Clean Energy Standard would be nice, but has no shot in hell

Sen. Jeff Bingaman. (Photo by Senator Chris Coons.)

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), the soon-to-retire chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, released his long-awaited proposal for a Clean Energy Standard (CES) today. Here's a two-page summary [PDF].

First thing to note: It's not going to pass. There is no way Republicans are going to allow Obama a policy victory during an election year. So this bill is just a marker, like a message in a bottle to be discovered by some future, sane Congress. It's hard to get too worked up about it.

That said, it looks pretty good to me. Obviously I would prefer ... oh, all sorts of other policies. A price on carbon. Feed-in tariffs. Coherent innovation policy and funding. A renewable energy standard. But as a kind of middle-of-the-road policy that is safe, at least on the merits, from the most common conservative attacks, it's fine.

Read more: Energy Policy, Politics


Peel-off solar panels could make solar competitive with coal

Ultra-thin solar cells that can be "peeled off" from larger pieces of silicon like delicious fruit roll-ups could be the key to making solar competitive with coal, say researchers at MIT.