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Weakened in Review

Bipartisan efforts to revamp the Endangered Species Act begin A hearing of the Senate fisheries, wildlife, and water subcommittee last week kicked off what is likely to be an extended process of revising and updating the Endangered Species Act. There is bipartisan agreement on several measures, including providing grants and incentives to private landowners to protect species on their land, and developing formal scientific recovery plans prior to designating critical habitat off-limits to development. But opinions vary widely outside that consensus. Some congressfolk view the act as a failure because less than 1 percent of protected species have recovered. In …

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Mega-mall in upstate New York could give birth to a clean-energy awakening

Could a mall mogul's dream project give a big boost to renewables? Image: DestiNY USA. As the Senate deliberates over the Bush-backed energy bill and enviros send out another round of distress signals over America's obdurate fossil-fuel dependency, who would believe that the next big thing in renewable energy is being driven by a tenacious commercial developer with strong GOP affiliations and 25 mega-malls under his belt? Picture a gargantuan shopping complex in upstate New York -- a so-called "retail city" big enough to make Mall of America look like a five-and-dime -- with thousands of shops plus restaurants, theaters, …

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Coast Riposte

House blocks attempt to lift ban on coastal drilling; more to come An attempt to weaken the U.S. moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling -- established by Congress in 1982 and renewed every year since -- was blocked yesterday in the House by a 262-157 vote. However, drilling opponents view it as just the first and easiest battle in what is likely to be an extended war. An upcoming bipartisan Senate measure may be more difficult to thwart: It would offer individual states potentially billions of dollars in oil and gas leasing revenues as incentive to lift the ban. …

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That’s Hot

States sue EPA over new mercury rules and the "hot spots" they'll create A coalition of 11 states filed suit against the U.S. EPA in federal court yesterday, charging that the agency's recently issued mercury emissions rules, which establish a "cap and trade" system whereby coal-fired power plants can trade pollution credits, pose an unacceptable threat to public health. Led by New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey, the states charge that allowing plants to trade credits rather than mandating that they reduce emissions will lead to mercury "hot spots" around polluting plants. The lawsuit follows on the heels of …

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New Apollo Energy Act contrasts sharply with “Jurassic” GOP energy bill

On April 21, Congress stepped back in geologic time when the House of Representatives passed an energy policy of the dinosaurs, by the dinosaurs, and for the dinosaurs. This energy bill is truly a "Jurassic" piece of legislation that relies on a limited energy source derived from creatures and plants that died millions of years ago. In fact, 93 percent of the $8 billion in tax incentives in the bill go to oil, gas, and other traditional energy industries. A patriotic sight. Photo: Tennessee Valley Infrastructure Group Inc. c/o NREL. Shortly before the House debate, one national leader said, "I …

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Mr. Hanky

Bush touts biofuels and his energy bill With his approval ratings plunging due in part to high gas prices, President Bush is fighting back by ... sniffing a hanky. Let us explain. Yesterday, Bush visited a biodiesel refinery in West Point, Va., to tout the alternative-fuel subsidies in his energy bill, which the Senate will begin considering this week. He praised biodiesel as a clean-burning fuel, even going so far as to closely inspect a handkerchief that had been held over a biodiesel exhaust pipe, noting that it "remained white." He said dependence on foreign oil is "like a foreign …

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Friends With Benefits

Saudi-owned company set to profit from proposed MTBE liability shield OK, kids, follow the bouncing red ball: The Republican energy bill, pending in the Senate, is advertised as a way to gain independence from Saudi Arabian oil (boing!). Part of the energy bill, included at the insistence of Texas Rep. Tom DeLay (R), is a provision shielding makers of groundwater-polluting, potentially cancer-causing gas additive MTBE from liability lawsuits, despite projected costs of $8 billion to $29 billion to clean up MTBE contamination (boing!). One of the major companies that produces MTBE and would benefit from the liability shield is SABIC …

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Subsidy Slickers

Nuke subsidies being added to McCain-Lieberman climate bill The latest draft of the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act proposes hundreds of millions of dollars in new subsidies for the nuclear power industry, in the form of a cost-splitting arrangement that would have the feds shoulder half the expense of developing and getting regulatory approval for three new nuke-plant designs. The proposal (not yet finalized) is reportedly a bargaining chip to win conservative support for caps on greenhouse-gas emissions. One might expect the idea to run into a brick wall of opposition from environmental groups, but that wall shows signs of cracking. …

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On a Wing and a Mayor

U.S. mayors form coalition to fight climate change, one city at a time A bipartisan coalition of 132 U.S. mayors -- led by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels (D), and recently joined by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) -- has issued a high-profile rebuke of Bush administration inaction on climate change. The leaders have committed to reducing their municipalities' greenhouse-gas emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, in line with Kyoto treaty targets. While the Bush team says Kyoto would devastate the economy, many mayors are signing on precisely for economic reasons. Nickels was jarred by a …

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Onward Christine Soldier

Washington gov signs groundbreaking renewable-energy legislation Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) has signed into law two bills that some are calling the most progressive renewable-energy legislation in any U.S. state. The measures earned bipartisan support thanks to their focus on creating a renewables market that would generate jobs and boost the state's economy. One bill calls for a credit to be paid to home and business owners for each kilowatt-hour of electricity they generate via solar photovoltaic and wind-power systems, with higher credits paid if the energy systems are manufactured in-state. The second offers tax breaks to renewable-energy businesses that …

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