Politics

Top Dems in Congress open to possible compromise deal on offshore drilling

Some key Democrats in Congress have said they’re willing to work out a compromise deal to open some offshore areas in U.S. waters to oil and gas drilling. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he’s “open to drilling and responsible production.” He also said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might also support limited offshore expansion. Though opening offshore areas to production wouldn’t actually lower oil or gasoline prices until about 2030 (and even then only slightly), Congress folk are under heavy pressure from constituents to do something (or even just look like they’re doing something) to …

Notable quotable

Oil in the ocean: light as a feather!

“These [oil] firms have learned a lot over the past two decades and three decades about their ability to go out and put a platform in water and extract oil and do it in a way that they’re not causing any environmental harm at all.” – White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto

Cheney reaction

Ex-EPA official details White House interference on climate action

In a letter [PDF] made public today, former deputy EPA administrator Jason Burnett indicates that both the Office of the Vice President and the Council on Environmental Quality have attempted to censor discussion of the consequences that global warming poses to human health.   Burnett, who went public about the administration’s obstruction after leaving the EPA in early June, detailed the interference in a letter to Environment and Public Works Chair Barbara Boxer responding to an inquiry [PDF] she sent to him last week. In the letter, which was made public today, Burnett outlines several instances of White House interference …

Energy ad wars begin

New Obama ad knocks McCain’s energy policy

Barack Obama’s campaign has released a new ad to counter those from the Republican National Committee criticizing his energy plan. Obama’s ad, called “New Energy,” accuses opponent John McCain of being “part of the problem” and hits on his support of drilling and tax breaks for oil companies. The ad says that energy independence is an “urgent priority” for the Democratic candidate, and notes his plans to invest in alternative energy and tax cuts for the middle class to help cover rising fuel costs: The ads are running in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

E.U. committee vote signals backstep from biofuels

The European Union took another step back from biofuels late Monday, as the Parliament’s environment committee approved 36-0 a proposal to lower the E.U.’s original target for biofueled transportation. The committee’s proposal would have the E.U. source just 4 percent of transportation fuels from biomass by 2015, then do a major review before jumping to the current target of 10 percent by 2020. The measure now moves to the full Parliament. The committee is in an advisory role and the proposal holds little legislative weight on its own, but the vote signals a significant shying away from full-speed-ahead biofuel boosting, …

Summit of its parts

Bush administration, other G8 leaders agree to halve emissions by 2050

Today at the G8 summit, which began yesterday in Hokkaido, Japan, world leaders reached a landmark deal: agreeing to cut emissions in half by 2050. The leaders agreed to “seriously consider” this goal last year, and six of the eight leaders have been trying desperately to get George Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper — who continued to resist mandatory cuts as of Monday — on board. That is, until a breakthrough today. Well, sort of: The Bush administration agreed to the 50-percent-by-2050 goal while still bucking at the idea of any shorter-term targets. German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised …

RNC: 'balance' = a climate in crisis; Senate GOP: 'balance' = climate-destroying shale

Republican leaders advocate domestic shale development

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less." The Republican National Committee just launched an ad called, "Balance" claiming we have "a climate in crisis." Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced the Climate Destruction Gas Price Reduction Act of 2008 late last month that would repeal the congressional moratorium on shale development. In a press release today titled, "A Balanced Approach to Reducing Gas Prices for Americans," he claimed that, "Our western states are sitting on a sea of oil three times as large as the oil reserves in Saudi Arabia." Actually, the shale ain't a sea of anything. It is a clay-like rock, organic marlstone, containing very little energy [PDF] -- per pound, it has one-tenth the energy of crude oil, one-fourth that of recycled phone books, one-third that of Cap'n Crunch. Turning it into a usable liquid fuel would require a massive amounts of energy and probably release more carbon dioxide than even liquid coal. The best analysis of the climate risks of unconventional oil, "Risks of the oil transition," coauthored by the late Alex Farrell, has an outstanding figure that shows that from a climate perspective, shale is probably worse than liquid coal (which is pretty damn bad):

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.)

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