The fight in the Senate

More intransigence on climate change

Hello! I just wanted to drop by Gristmill to give all of you an update on the energy bill. To no one's surprise, the Republicans are throwing sand in the gears and trying to block any meaningful progress. The energy bill, as it stands, is not nearly strong enough, so there are a number of amendments that must be adopted to give us a bill that actually gets us started on that path of dealing with our energy crisis and our climate crisis.

Nothing busted but our chops

How the 2007 Farm Bill can help restore market competition

Are federal authorities finally taking the idea that a few companies shouldn't be allowed to dominate the food system seriously? Well, the Federal Trade Commission recently blocked Whole Foods from gobbling up rival natural foods marketer Wild Oats. Congratulations to the FTC for busting up the natural-foods trust! But even combined, Whole Foods and Wild Oats would account for only 15 percent of natural-foods sales. Meanwhile, Smithfield Foods alone now controls 30 percent of the pork market after acquiring Premium Standard Farms a month ago -- a deal that the Department of Justice waved on. In fact, our food production system is full of examples of market concentration that make the Whole Foods/Wild Oats tie-up look like small (organic, heirloom) potatoes. Given such brazen inconsistencies, Congress needs to step in and give the executive branch some direction when applying antitrust theory to food companies. Adding a Competition Title to the Farm Bill would do just that.

When push comes to guv

Ahhhnold and friends tell the folks on the Hill to get with it

Ahhhnold is calling out the U.S. government for being a bunch of girly men and women on climate change. On Monday, he teamed up with Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell, a fellow Republican, to chastise the folks on the Hill for “inaction and denial” on climate change in an open letter published in the Washington Post. Not only have they failed to take major federal action, they’ve also tried to thwart actions by progressive states like California and Connecticut, the governors said. “It’s bad enough that the federal government has yet to take the threat of global warming seriously,” wrote the …

Ready to Barack

Obama qualifies his support for coal-to-liquid fuel Illinois senator and presidential hopeful Barack Obama (D) has qualified his support for coal — which is, you may recall, the enemy of the human race. In January, Obama cosponsored legislation to provide incentives for production of coal-to-liquid fuel. He was lambasted by enviros; influential advocacy group MoveOn.org waged a petition opposing the bill. And the public pressure seems to have worked: Yesterday, Obama sent an email to green groups that stated, “Senator Obama supports … investing in technology that could make coal a clean-burning source of energy. However, unless and until this …

We Propose They Give Everyone a Pony

Senate begins to debate energy bill The U.S. Senate began debate on a honkin’ new energy bill yesterday. In its current form, the bill would increase vehicle fuel-economy standards by up to 40 percent by 2020, significantly boost ethanol production (both corn and non-corn), promote green-collar job training, and mandate a reduction in imported-oil use by 10 million barrels a day by 2031. Let the amending begin! Coal-state Democrats want billions of dollars in loans and other incentives for the bane of greens’ existence, coal-to-liquid fuel. Republicans want incentives for domestic fossil-fuel production. One proposal in the works would weaken …

Obama, CTL, and opportunity costs

Better, but still not great

This statement from Obama is a welcome clarification of his position on liquid coal: he says he won’t support it unless it demonstrates “at least 20% less life-cycle carbon than conventional fuels.” The key term, of course, is “life-cycle.” Unless he’s weaseling, that means the whole shebang, from mining to refining to burning. This is a clear line in the sand, and Obama’s to be commended for it. But. It still dodges the crux of the issue: opportunity costs. The technology exists to get CTL down to a 20% emissions reduction from gasoline, but if all of it is implemented, …

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