Politics

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, …

The power of the coal lobby

It makes Senate Dems act like wussies

Remarkable: The bill is being circulated by Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee and the energy bill’s lead author. Until this week, Mr. Bingaman had opposed big subsidies for coal-based fuels, saying that each new production plant would cost billions of dollars and that the economic uncertainties posed risks for taxpayers. But in what could be an effort to fend off demands from coal-state lawmakers for bigger subsidies, Mr. Bingaman’s draft proposal would offer up to $10 billion in direct government loans for coal-to-liquid plants. Unfuckingbelievable. They want to give one of the …

Lobbyists belly up to the energy trough

New energy legislation in Congress debates various terrible solutions

This piece in the NYT is pretty depressing. It’s about the main battles around the upcoming energy legislation. Here are the points of contention: Ethanol subsidies Coal and nuclear subsidies CAFE standards On pretty much all these issues, it’s Big Money lobby vs. Big Money lobby, and every one of them is a distraction — no help at best, a hindrance at worst. Where’s the Big Efficiency lobby when you need it?

Action on federal renewable energy standard

Make your opinion heard

Senator Bingaman is with the majority of Americans in wanting more renewable energy. Accordingly, he has authored legislation that would require utilities to increase renewables in their portfolio to 15 percent by 2020. Senator Domenici is with the craven few who don't want this to happen. Accordingly, he has authored an amendment to redefine qualifying renewables to include nukes and coal. So tricky! But we are on to him. The vote on Domenici's amendment will take place this afternoon. Calls to the following swinging senators by 2 p.m. EDT today could make all the difference. Minn. - Coleman - 202.224.5641 N.H. - Gregg - 202.224.3324 Ark. - Pryor - 202.224.2353 Ark. - Lincoln - 202.224.4843 Kan. - Brownback - 202.224.6521 Ind. - Bayh - 202.224.5623 Ore. - Smith - 202.224.3753 Mo. - McCaskill - 202.224.6154 W.Va. - Rockefeller- 202.224.6472 If you live in or know anyone in these states, consider calling ASAP. Talking points: Hi, my name is XXXX and I'm calling from [city, state]. I'm calling to ask Senator XXXX to oppose Senator Domenici's amendment to the national renewable portfolio standard bill. The amendment would weaken the deployment of truly clean and renewable electricity sources like wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal. The renewable standard is intended to promote our development of clean, new energy sources, not give more subsidies to the coal and nuclear industries. The bill provides a way to save consumers like me money on their utility bills by increasing the competition from renewable energy sources and reducing the demand for natural gas Thank you. Action courtesy of UCS

Two presidential ads on global warming

From the candidates with the best plans and least chances

The two Democratic presidential candidates with the strongest energy plans and, um, least chance of winning have come out with new ads based on global warming. Here’s Chris Dodd’s: Here’s Bill Richardson’s: (via Hugg)