Politics

Lag in water-pollution enforcement traced to muddled court decision

The U.S. EPA has neglected to pursue hundreds of potential violations of the Clean Water Act because of regulatory uncertainty, according to an internal memo. The lack of clarity stems from a 2006 Supreme Court ruling that left plenty up in the air about the types of waterways and wetlands that fall under EPA jurisdiction. The confusion has had “a significant impact on enforcement,” wrote an EPA enforcement and compliance official in a March memo to the agency’s assistant administrator for water. From July 2006 to December 2007, said the memo, the EPA failed to pursue 304 cases that would …

'Cooling a fevered planet' in <em>Z</em> Magazine

Economics, policy, and vision for fighting global warming

Z magazine has published an extended article by me on the politics and economics of global warming. It begins: Nobody, except for a small lunatic fringe, still disputes that human-caused climate chaos endangers all of us. Further, most serious scientific and technical groups who have looked at the question have concluded that we have the technological capability today to replace greenhouse-gas emitting fossil fuels with efficiency improvements and clean energy -- usually at a maximum cost of around the current worldwide military budget, probably much less. The question therefore is: What's stopping us? To answer that we need to look at the causes of global warming -- not the physical causes, but the economic and political flaws in our system that have prevented solutions from being implemented long after the problem was known. One driver is inequality and the maintenance of power that keeps inequality in place produces perverse incentives in resource use. Read the whole thing. (Note this will disappear behind a paywall eventually. I urge you to buy a copy of Zmag or subscribe to the electronic edition to support alternative media. But if you want to read it for free, grab your electronic copy now.)

Tax relief?

Minority leader proposes spending cuts to pay for renewables tax-credit extension

Yet another episode in the drama that is the renewable-energy tax-credit extensions. Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sent a letter [PDF] to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asking that the Democrats agree to spending cuts in order to fund the extension of tax credits for renewable energy. In the letter, McConnell says he “would like to focus on areas of bipartisan agreement in order to break the impasse on these time-sensitive tax matters.” The Senate has been in a lock for some time now over the extensions, which would maintain the tax …

Cheney's third term

McCain’s economy plan fails to substantially address energy efficiency

John McCain takes the "conserve" out of "conservative." His entire energy efficiency strategy would fit on one side of a very small file card and can be summarized as follows: Ban Porsches, green federal buildings, and applaud homeowners who do stuff on their own! His repackaged new economic plan, "Jobs for America" has precisely three paragraphs that deal with efficiency: CAFE Standards: John McCain has long supported CAFE standards -- the mileage requirements that automobile manufacturers' cars must meet. Some carmakers ignore these standards, pay a small financial penalty, and add it to the price of their cars. John McCain believes that the penalties for not following these standards must be effective enough to compel carmakers to produce fuel-efficient vehicles. Seriously. That's all he has to say about fuel economy. McCain's entire fuel economy strategy is to force a small number of "higher end auto companies like BMW, Porsche, and Mercedes" to make their cars fuel efficient. What a transformative, addiction-ending idea -- I bet it would reduce U.S. oil consumption at least one-tenth of 1 percent:

The Iraqi Oil Ministry's new fave five

All the oil news that’s fit to print

This essay was originally published on TomDispatch and is republished here with Tom's kind permission. ----- On June 19, the New York Times broke the story in an article headlined "Deals with Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back: Rare No-Bid Contracts, A Foothold for Western Companies Seeking Future Rewards." Finally, after a long five years-plus, there was proof that the occupation of Iraq really did have something or other to do with oil. Quoting unnamed Iraqi Oil Ministry bureaucrats, oil company officials, and an anonymous American diplomat, Andrew Kramer of the Times wrote: "Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP ... along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq's Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq's largest fields." The news caused a minor stir, as other newspapers picked up and advanced the story and the mainstream media, only a few years late, began to seriously consider the significance of oil to the occupation of Iraq. As always happens when, for whatever reason, you come late to a major story and find yourself playing catch-up on the run, there are a few corrections and blind spots in the current coverage that might be worth addressing before another five years pass. In the spirit of collegiality, I offer the following leads for the mainstream media to consider as they change gears from no-comment to hot-pursuit when it comes to the story of Iraq's most sought after commodity. I'm talking, of course, about that "sea of oil" on which, as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz pointed out way back in May 2003, the month after Baghdad fell, Iraq "floats."

Voters' Voices: Oregon II

A chat with Portland’s Charlie Stephens about petrodollars and oil wars

This is part of a series of dispatches from Melinda Henneberger, who's talking to voters around the U.S. about their views on the environment and the election. One thing I learned traveling around the country a couple of years ago, talking to voters for a political book I was working on, is that Americans tend to give their elected officials a super-size helping of benefit of the doubt. One night, I was in Suffolk, Va., having dinner with some active-duty Navy women -- the real "security moms" -- who were in between tours in the Persian Gulf. One of them, a young Republican named Elizabeth DeAngelo, remarked that the war in Iraq had had no effect on her political views, because she did not consider the decision to go to war a partisan matter. "Being in the military opens your eyes that it is dangerous out there," said DeAngelo, who watched the first "shock and awe" bombs fall from the deck the U.S.S. Kearsarge, "and you have to believe that no president would want to run the government into the ground, for their legacy, if nothing else. So if a Democrat did get elected, I wouldn't think, 'Oh, no!' I don't know if the reasons if we went over there were the right reasons. But even though I didn't like [President] Clinton as a person, I can't believe -- nobody, I think, would put several hundred thousand people in a conflict for oil. Even if it were Clinton, I wouldn't think that. I think they do what they think is right." A number of people I spoke to across the country made that same point -- that politics aside, no American president could possibly be that venal, or stoop so low as to put Americans in harm's way over a mere commodity. Much of the rest of the world does not have this kind of confidence in the best intentions of its leaders, but we do. Which is why we're still unsure about the "real reason" we went into Iraq. It's why most reporters find it easier to believe we wandered into this misadventure as the result of some Oedipal psychodrama in the Bush family, or plain incompetence. And it's why I had a really, really hard time hearing what Charlie Stephens had to tell me when I sat down with him in Portland, Ore., a couple of weeks ago.

Democratic convention planners struggling to meet big green goals

Planners of August’s Democratic Convention in Denver are finding that it’s just not that easy to pull off Green Director Andrea Robinson’s goal of “the most sustainable political convention in modern American history.” Only three states’ delegations have agreed to purchase carbon offsets through the convention’s “Green Delegate Challenge” program. Merchandisers despair of finding fanny packs and baseball caps that are organic and made in the U.S. by union labor. Robinson has been unsuccessful in banning bottled water at the convention center. Hotel space in Denver is in short supply, meaning many attendees will likely have to transport themselves by …

Ad lib

RNC drops $3 million to promote McCain’s energy plan

Over the weekend, the Republican National Committee launched their 10-day, $3 million campaign to tout John McCain’s energy policy with this ad: “Record gas prices, a climate in crisis. John McCain says solve it now,” says the ad. “With a balanced plan — alternative energy, conservation, suspending the gas tax and more production here at home. He’s pushing his own party to face climate change.” It goes on to hit Barack Obama for not supporting McCain’s “gas-tax holiday” plan or his calls for more nuclear power and offshore drilling. The ads will run in four key swing states through July …

Presidential campaign ads go on attack over energy issues

The first major ad buy this year from a major party aired over the weekend, a TV spot courtesy of the Republican National Committee attacking Democratic candidate Barack Obama for a lack of creativity on the energy scene. While John McCain is “pushing his own party to face climate change,” the ad says that Obama isn’t pushing the boundaries like his rival. The ad points out that Obama says no to suspending the gas tax, no to offshore drilling, and even, erroneously, no to nuclear. McCain’s energy platform is also the subject of new “independent” ads paid for and vetted …

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