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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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Heartland adviser: Heat waves only kill people who were basically dead already

The Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg is actually braving the Heartland Institute conference this week. And it's totally worth it, because she's coming out with quotes of horrifying callousness, like this one, from Heartland policy adviser John Dunn:

"Warm is good for people, and it's particularly good for people as they get older," said Dunn. "The people that warm spells kill are already moribund." He went on to say that only extreme cold caused extra deaths.

Let us translate: Hey, old people! Sorry about that heat wave that killed you. You were going to die anyway, so no sweat, OK?

The next speaker wanted to revive the use of DDT.

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Stunning photos drive home the destructiveness of tar sands

We all know, in the abstract, that tar-sands oil is something we should oppose. But seeing the destruction that tar-sands mining wreaks on the landscape really brings it home. Business Insider took some spectacular photos at the Alberta tar sands, and they make the impact viscerally clear.

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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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Why are U.S. taxpayers subsidizing coal mining?

Why are we handing Big Coal our bacon?

The most important thing you can read this week is Joe Smyth's post on federal coal leasing. I realize "federal coal leasing" is not a phrase to quicken the pulse, but it's a Very Big Deal.

A couple of weeks ago, I explained the situation the U.S. coal industry is in: domestic electricity use has leveled off, utilities are switching to cheap natural gas and wind, and the EPA is finally cracking down on dirty old coal plants. All that leaves U.S. coal in a pinch. Their main hope for the future is to increase coal exports. That's why the fight over coal export terminals matters.

Arguably, though, the coal-export fight is secondary. From a climate-hawk point of view, it would be better just to leave the damn coal in the ground.

Is that even within our power as concerned U.S. citizens? As it happens, yes, it is, because we own much of the coal! The coal that companies like Peabody are itching to export comes from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana. And most of the land in the Powder River Basin is owned by the federal government -- that is to say, it's owned by you and me.

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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:

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Buzzword decoder: Your election-year guide to environmental catchphrases

bees saying buzzwordsDon't expect the environment to be in the spotlight in political campaigns this year. The economy will be the star in 2012, with the culture wars singing backup.

Still, environmental issues are getting talked about, often obliquely as part of larger discussions about energy -- though the words don't always mean what you might think they mean. And the words politicians don't say can tell you as much as the words they do.

Here's a guide to energy and environmental buzzwords you'll be hearing, or not, this election year:

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Congressional report says ‘drill, baby, drill’ won’t protect U.S. from oil price spikes

Photo by swisscan.

A version of this post originally appeared on Climate Progress.

More domestic drilling does not make America less susceptible to global supply disruptions or protect consumers from gasoline price volatility, according to a new analysis [PDF] from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The CBO report reviewed different policies intended to make the country more energy secure, concluding that the only effective tool for shielding businesses and consumers from price spikes is to use less oil.

Because oil is sold on the global market, CBO concludes that increasing domestic oil production would do little to influence rising gas prices in the U.S.

These findings back up historical experience. According to an analysis of 36 years of gasoline prices and domestic oil production conducted by the Associated Press, there is zero statistical correlation between increased drilling and lower prices at the gas pump.

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Big Oil dominates political attacks on Obama

A still from an American Energy Alliance ad. (Click to watch.)

Here's an astonishing statistic, brought to us by Bloomberg:

In April, 16,991 negative ads aired in various parts of the country and 13,748 of them -- or 81 percent -- focused on energy, according to data provided by New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks advertising.

Energy? Really?

The details of the story make clear that the vast bulk of these negative energy ads are attack ads directed at Obama, purchased by big PACs -- Americans for Prosperity, American Energy Alliance, Let Freedom Ring, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies -- awash in Big Oil money.

What the hell is going on? Why is energy dominating the right's campaign against Obama?