Photo courtesy wildpianist via FlickrOil and water don’t mix. But oil, climate change, and politics? You just can’t tease those three apart.
The investigation into the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon well continues today with a hearing in Houston amidst a swirl of bad energy. There’s sniping between Transocean, the owner of the ill-fated rig, and BP. Government scientists are saying they never signed off on the government’s lowball estimate of the amount of oil remaining in the Gulf. And it turns out the Obama administration knew that its deepwater drilling moratorium could mean the loss of 23,000 jobs, at least temporarily anyway. Speaking of, there’s no sign the controversial moratorium will be lifted any time soon. Ken Salazar himself, head of the Interior Department, defended the moratorium in the Houston Chronicle yesterday:
We are requiring companies that want to drill to prove they are prepared to deal with catastrophic blowouts and oil spills like the Deepwater Horizon. BP’s failed attempts to contain its blowout — from the “containment dome” to the “top hat” — exposed its lack of preparedness for a disaster. The previous administration exempted operators from addressing worst-case scenarios in their exploration plans, but we have closed that loophole. The oil and gas industry’s inadequate preparedness is also one of the reasons the current deepwater drilling pause is so important: We need to put effective strategies in place for containing blowouts and responding to major spills.
Suck it up: At the end of a summer whose brutal weather put climate change back on the front burner comes still more disturbing climate news. Two University of Montana scientists find that since the turn of this century, plants are sucking up less of the planet’s CO2. Maosheng Zhao and Steven Running had actually expected to find just the opposite; that because global warming has extended growing seasons, plants would be absorbing even more carbon dioxide. Instead, they’re absorbing less. Zhao and Running blame droughts and the general dessication of the southern hemisphere. Said Zhao:
We don’t know what will happen in the future. But many models estimate that … droughts will become more frequent. So based on that, we expect the future will be gloomy.
Coal … the other black teat: Don’t expect any climate relief either, according to Daniel Gros, director of the Centre for European Policy Studies. Writing in The Guardian, Gros says our jonesin’ for coal will make climate change a done deal:
The U.S. experience has wider implications. If it proved impossible to introduce a moderate carbon tax in a rich economy, it is certain that no commitment will be forthcoming for the next generation from China, which remains much poorer and depends even more on indigenous coal than the U.S. And, after China, India looms as the next emerging coal-based industrial superpower.
It’s the economy, stupid: Aside from its negative effects on global agriculture and health, how bad is climate change for business? Well, Russia’s saying its summer of heat waves and fires could end up costing the country $15 billion. Pakistan’s economy was sinking even before flood water covered 20 percent of the country, but the recent deluge sure doesn’t help. It says something that the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission now requires companies to disclose any potential risks from global warming to investors. Rebecca Lefton and Richard Caperton, go deeper on the subject at the Center for American Progress website.
They hunt witches, don’t they? Not that any of this climate change fallout matters to Virginia’s attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, who’s still doing all he can to keep Climategate alive. His vendetta against climate scientist Michael Mann was on full display in a Virginia courtroom Friday. A Cuccinelli minion repeated his boss’s claim that Mann manipulated data while he was a University of Virginia professor — and state employee — and that this behavior amounted to fraud. Cuccinelli wants the university to hand over every climate-related email Mann wrote during his tenure there. University lawyers pointed out that not one, but several investigations have cleared Mann of any wrongdoing. They also brought up the little matter of academic freedom. The judge said he’d rule by the end of the month.
California schemin’: It’s going to start getting really ugly in the battle to save California Assembly Bill 32, the state’s cutting-edge law limiting greenhouse gases. We already know that two of the state’s biggest polluters, Texas-based Tesoro Corp. and Valero Energy Corp., have been bankrolling the campaign for Proposition 23, which would put the emissions law on ice. Now Lee Fang, writing in the Wonk Room, says the mother of all climate change deniers — Koch Industries — is working with Prop 23 proponents behind the scenes. A coalition of clean energy investors and environmentalists is firing back with its own TV ads. According to Bloomberg’s Mark Chediak and Simon Lomax, the clean tech opposition has a war chest of $5.5 million, with more on the way.
You vote with that mouth? No surprise then that Nichol Allen, writing in The Atlantic, picked the California governor’s race as one of five campaigns this fall where climate change could actually make a difference. Democrat Jerry Brown rails against Proposition 23 almost every chance he gets; Republican Meg Whitman says she’ll suspend the cap-and-trade component of the greenhouse gas law her first day in office. Allen also suggests watching the Senate race in Pennsylvania between Democrat Joe Sestak and R
epublican Pat Toomey. Sestak is one of those unlucky Democrats who’s getting beaten up for supporting the House’s cap-and-trade bill last year. Another potential cap-and-trade victim is Virginia Rep. Rick Boucher (D), a buddy of Big Coal who nevertheless voted for cap-and-trade as a way to keep the EPA from setting emission standards. In fact, cap-and-trade is now such a dirty word that even some House Democrats are following the Republican lead and calling it “Nancy Pelosi’s energy tax.”
A clean break: Remember when Obama was committing $150 billion in federal money for clean energy R&D? Those were the days, eh? Jesse Jenkins, of the Breakthrough Institute, noticed last week that all mention of that pledge is gone from the White House website. Seeing that the money was supposed to come from revenue generated through a nonexistent cap-and-trade system, no reason to keep that big ol’ empty promise hanging out there. But now comes a report on the uptick in renewable energy use in Europe — up more than 8 percent last year, while coal use dropped 9 percent — and word that the Japanese government is working on a major stimulus package built around clean energy technologies.
Welcome to the rear view mirror.