U.S.: Environment & energy
Climate change on Wednesday-Night.com
Andrew Revkin Dot Earth blog
Natural Gas Forum Pros and Cons of Marcellus Shale Gas Development
“Gasland” on PBS NOW talks with filmmaker Josh Fox about “Gasland”, his Sundance award-winning documentary on the surprising consequences of natural gas drilling. Fox’s film — inspired when the gas company came to his hometown — alleges chronic illness, animal-killing toxic waste, disastrous explosions, and regulatory missteps.
Woodrow Wilson Center Is the Proposed Keystone XL Pipeline in the National Interest?
Panelists will address the importance of KXL to future U.S. energy security; the economic benefits that can be expected from the project; how many jobs will be created by the construction and subsequent maintenance and use of the pipeline; the effect State’s decision might have on Canada U.S. relations; whether the pipeline will affect U.S. gasoline prices; and pipeline integrity issues. (September 22, 2011)
Even the most serious topics need a little laughter. The Onion supplies it Wind Farms May Blow Earth Off Orbit, Coal Lobby Warns In Hilarious Spoof Video
A detailed review of President Obama’s record on climate change, pipelines and the environment
Ryan Lizza: The President and the Pipeline
The campaign to make the Keystone XL the test of Obama’s resolve on climate change.
(The New Yorker) This fall, five months after Obama’s visit to San Francisco, the politics of his second term have changed. His gun-control agenda is dead. His immigration bill—the legislative centerpiece of his second term—is languishing in the House, with little prospect for passage. Chances for a grand bargain with Republicans on the budget seem remote. The White House had hoped that Obama’s 2012 victory would jolt Republicans into a more coöperative mood, but Congress has thwarted his entire domestic agenda.
In recent months, Obama has been looking for ways to act without Congress. Climate change happens to be the one policy area that requires almost nothing from Capitol Hill in order for him to make a major difference. “In my State of the Union address, I urged Congress to come up with a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one that Republican and Democratic senators worked on together a few years ago,” he said in his June climate speech. “And I still want to see that happen. I’m willing to work with anyone to make that happen. But this is a challenge that does not pause for partisan gridlock. It demands our attention now. And this is my plan to meet it.” He directed the E.P.A. to issue new rules curbing emissions from coal-fired power plants. Electricity plants running on coal produce more than a quarter of U.S. carbon pollution. Depending on the stringency of the new E.P.A. rules, they could be even more consequential than his 2012 automobile regulations.
Accounts of Obama’s private views about his second-term climate agenda suggest that he sees the E.P.A. rules as his real legacy on the issue, and that he’s skeptical of the environmentalists’ claims about Keystone. “He thinks the greenhouse-gas numbers have been inflated by opponents,” Ambassador Doer said. Journalists who discussed the issue with Obama earlier this year in off-the-record sessions said that he told them the same thing.
The climate change battle is (re) joined
(RCI) In Boston on Tuesday, Gina McCarthy delivered her first speech as the new director of the US Environmental Protection Agency. It didn’t make a lot of headlines in Canada, but it will likely have a bearing on a the lives of a lot of Canadians.
Speaking to an audience at Harvard Law School, Ms. McCarthy doubled down on President Barack Obama’s call for broad climate regulations combined with economic growth.
Climate change, Ms. McCarthy said, is not just an environmental issue. It is a fundamental economic challenge–for both the US and internationally.
Obama disputes Keystone pipeline job numbers, says it could increase gas prices in U.S.
(National Post) U.S. President Barack Obama called into question the number of jobs that would be created from the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in an interview with the New York Times released on Saturday.
“Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator,” Obama said, according to the newspaper.
“There is no evidence that that’s true. The most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline, which might take a year or two, and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in an economy of 150 million working people.”
U.S. fracking study says chemicals don’t contaminate drinking water
A landmark U.S. federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site, the Department of Energy told The Associated Press.
After a year of monitoring, the researchers found that the chemical-laced fluids used to free gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water, geologist Richard Hammack said.
Although the results are preliminary [our emphasis]– the study is still ongoing – they are a boost to a natural gas industry that has fought complaints from environmental groups and property owners who call fracking dangerous. … Duke University scientist Rob Jackson and his colleagues have done numerous studies over the last few years that looked at whether gas drilling is contaminating nearby drinking water, with mixed results. None of them have found chemical contamination but they did find evidence that natural gas escaped from some wells near the surface and polluted drinking water in northeastern Pennsylvania. See Nick’s Gleanings Comment below
Obama lays out climate action plan
(BBC) US President Barack Obama has laid out a package of measures aimed at curbing climate change, including limits on emissions from power plants.
He also unveiled plans for an expansion of renewable energy projects, improved flood resilience and calls for an international climate deal.
Administration officials had earlier rejected the idea of a “carbon tax”.
Obama To Unveil Climate Plan In Tuesday Speech
(AP via HuffPost) — President Barack Obama says he’ll unveil a national plan to combat climate change in a speech Tuesday.
Obama says in an online video the White House released Saturday that he’ll lay out his vision for reducing carbon pollution, preparing the U.S. for the effects of climate change and leading other nations in the global effort. He says scientists must design new fuels and energy sources, and workers must prepare for a clean energy economy.
EPA announces expert panel to review fracking study
(Planet Ark) The Environmental Protection Agency’s science advisory board on Monday named 31 experts from universities, scientific labs and companies to review the agency’s landmark hydraulic fracturing study that is expected to be delivered in 2014.
The study, first requested by Congress in 2010, may prove pivotal in the government’s regulation of fracking that has unlocked generations’ worth of oil and gas supplies.
EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe said the selection of a range of impartial experts shows the agency, whose foes have accused it of being opaque in its practices, is being open in the report’s procedure.
Analysis: Obama’s climate agenda may face setbacks in federal court
(Planet Ark) President Barack Obama’s plan to use federal agencies, and the Environmental Protection Agency in particular, to drive his second-term climate change agenda might be in peril if he cannot fill vacant seats on the federal court that has jurisdiction over major national regulations, legal experts say.
Obama is the first full-term president in more than a half century not to have appointed a single judge to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The court, considered the second most important in the nation, decides cases challenging agency regulations such as those involving the EPA’s Clean Air Act and often serves as a feeder to the Supreme Court.
New York attorney Caitlin Halligan, Obama’s first nominee to fill one of four vacant seats on the 11-judge bench, announced her withdrawal on Friday after Republicans twice blocked her nomination over concerns about a 2001 case in which she represented New York state and argued that gun manufacturers had created a “public nuisance” under state law.
The fracking frenzy in North Dakota has boosted the U.S. fuel supply—but at what cost?
(National Geographic | March 2013) Since early 2006, production from what’s known as the Bakken formation has increased nearly 150-fold, to more than 660,000 barrels a day, moving North Dakota into second place among domestic suppliers, behind Texas and ahead of Alaska.
… some optimistic oilmen predict that the state’s daily output could eventually close in on Texas’—at two million barrels. The number of wells could increase from the roughly 8,000 operating today to between 40,000 and 50,000. By the time the frenzy ends, perhaps 20 years from now, as many as 14 billion barrels of high-quality crude may have been removed. Until more pipelines are built in this landlocked rural region, most of the oil and water will be transported by truck. So will everything else needed for swift, large-scale development: gravel, construction materials, tools, machinery. The prairie is being industrialized. …
Change of such scope and intensity is bound to raise questions. Thousands of people are converging on the area. … And jobs are plentiful. In Williston, in the heart of the oil patch, the unemployment rate is less than one percent. But how does a region of farms and small towns weather the human onslaught? Another risk is environmental damage. Most attention has focused on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, by which large amounts of fresh water combined with sand and other substances, some toxic, are driven under high pressure down wells drilled into deep layers of shale, creating cracks through which bubbles of trapped oil and natural gas can escape into the well. Where will all the clean water come from? How will the dirty water that’s pumped out be prevented from contaminating groundwater, as has happened in other parts of the country? Stepping back for a broader view, can the inestimable values of the prairie—silence, solitude, serenity—be preserved in the face of full-throttle, regionwide development, of extracting as much oil as possible as fast as possible?
The implications are already reverberating far beyond North Dakota. Bakken-like shale formations occur across the U.S., indeed, across the world. The extraction technology refined in the Bakken is in effect a skeleton key that can be used to open other fossil fuel treasure chests.
Fracked Gas Won’t Solve Energy Crunch: Report
Conserving key to energy independence concludes geologist David Hughes
(The Tyee) Governments and financial analysts who think unconventional fossil fuels such as bitumen, shale gas and shale oil can usher in an era of prosperity and energy plenty are dangerously deluded, concludes a groundbreaking report by one of Canada’s top energy analysts.
In a meticulous 181 page study for the Post Carbon Institute, geologist David Hughes concludes that the U.S. “is highly unlikely to achieve energy independence unless energy consumption declines substantially.” …
To Hughes shale gas and shale oil represent a temporary bubble in production that will soon burst due to rapid depletion rates that have only recently been tallied.
Taken together shale gas and shale oil wells “will require about 8,600 wells per year at a cost of over $48 billion to offset declines.” …
Unconventional fossil fuels all share a host of cruel and limiting traits says Hughes. They offer dramatically fewer energy returns; they consume extreme and endless flows of capital; they provide difficult or volatile rates of supply overtime and have “large environmental impacts in their extraction.”
Most important, bitumen, shale oil and shale gas, by definition, are much lower quality hydrocarbons and therefore can’t fund business as usual. They simply do not provide the same energy returns or the same amount of work as conventional hydrocarbons due to the energy needed to extract or upgrade them, says Hughes.
Going green, making green
(CBC The National) Duncan McCue looks at the booming business of renewable energy in the United States, in spite of its reputation for an addiction to cheap energy
NY fracking decision faces further delay on health study
(Planet Ark/WEN) New York State’s decision to lift a four-year ban on natural gas drilling faced further delay on Tuesday after officials conducting a key health impact study asked for more time to form their conclusions on the divisive issue.
The New York Department of Health, which has been commissioned to study how the drilling process known as fracking affects public health, said the review is ongoing but that a few more weeks are needed due to the “complexity of the issues”.
Full Throttle Ahead: US Tips Global Power Scales with Fracking
(Spiegel) The United States is sitting on massive natural gas and oil reserves that have the potential to shift the geopolitical balance in its favor. Worries are increasing in Russia and the Arab states of waning influence and falling market prices.
Davos strives to make climate talk more than hot air
(WEN/Planet Ark) Climate change is back on the global agenda, with debate in the corridors at Davos given fresh impetus by U.S. President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon both highlighting it as top priority this week.
Yet business leaders are still struggling to find the economic incentives to change current practices.
Obama gives unexpected nod to climate as second term priority
(WEN/Planet Ark) President Barack Obama said on Monday he will confront climate change in his second term in office, an unexpected vow that puts the politically charged issue among his domestic priorities alongside gun control and immigration reform.
Linking climate change to devastating weather and fires, Obama said the country could grow its economy while protecting itself from the worst effects of a phenomenon scientists say is getting worse due to man-made pollutants.
By pointing to the topic in detail in his second Inaugural Address, the Democratic president committed the White House to try to mitigate the emission of greenhouse gases – an area where he had uneven success during his first four years in office.
Climate change was a mostly dormant issue during last year’s presidential campaign, and environmentalists hoped that Obama would put the topic squarely on his agenda in a second term.
Obama said in his address that the United States should be a leader in sustainable energy and framed the issue as a matter of national security and economic opportunity.
A natural gas well is drilled near Canton, in Bradford County, Pennsylvania January 8, 2012. Bradford County is currently ground zero for fracking the Marcellus shale in the Northeastern United States.
Photo: Les Stone
US issues framework on study on fracking and water
(WEN|Planet Ark) The Obama administration issued the framework on Friday of a long-term study on whether fracking for natural gas pollutes drinking water, but will not make conclusions until 2014 about the controversial technique that is helping to fuel a domestic drilling boom.
Critics of the Environmental Protection Agency study, called for by Congress in 2010, complain it does not closely examine the impact of drillers’ injecting waste water deep underground, a practice that has been linked to small earthquakes.
The progress report outlined case studies at drilling sites in states including North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas that will inform the final study. For a link to the study click here
What Obama Can Accomplish Without Congress – A dozen ways to fight climate change right now.
(Slate) … policy analysts say, there’s much a president can do on his or her own to bring down the U.S. contribution to greenhouse gases. The executive branch is, of course, tasked with enforcing laws and regulations already on the books, creating new regulations, and updating old ones. It has the power, technically, to exercise authority over every major source of greenhouse gases, from power plants (34 percent of U.S. emissions) to adipic-acid manufacturing (less than half a percent). Here’s a rundown.
America’s oil bonanza
(The Economist) A good thing—but it would be better if energy was priced correctly in the United States
It will be years before renewable energy is cheap and reliable enough to replace fossil fuels entirely. For now, hydrocarbons and the warming they bring with them are necessary evils. Rather than trying to distort their supply, the American government’s job should be to let the oil and gas flow, where it is safe; but at the same time force those who use it to pay the full costs of that fuel—including those to the environment and the planet—and seek to spread the development of alternatives.
America has got the first part of that right, especially when it comes to encouraging innovation. Its landowners own the minerals below their turf, giving them a huge incentive to allow exploration (unlike Europe’s). There are a few barmy rules, such as a ban on crude-oil exports, but it can still sell the refined version. Barack Obama should approve the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry Canadian oil to the Gulf of Mexico. Greens fear leakages, but overland pipes are far less risky than, say, shifting oil in trucks, and the pipe’s owners would have to pay for any clean-up.
Where American energy policy is far less sensible is when it comes to the price reflecting the true cost. Tiny petrol taxes take no account of the damaging effects of pollution. This newspaper has long argued for a carbon tax to make dirty energy more expensive and thus curb demand. If that happened, some of the new oil might not be worth extracting: Canada’s heavy oil, for instance, emits about 6% more carbon dioxide than normal oil, which in turn can be 30% dirtier than gas. The biggest bonanza from all this new energy would be if the users paid the real cost of consuming oil and gas.
Obama vows to take personal charge of climate change in second term
President acknowledges first term made only limited progress on the contentious issue that has lit up since hurricane Sandy
Barack Obama claimed climate change as a personal mission of his second term on Wednesday, offering for the first time to take charge of the effort to find a bipartisan solution to the existential crisis.
Obama, speaking in the first White House press conference since his re-election, acknowledged his first term had made only limited progress on climate change. But he promised to remain personally engaged in getting Republicans and Democrats to agree on a course of action.
“So what I am going to be doing over the next several weeks, the next several months, is having a conversation – a wide-ranging conversation – with scientists, engineers and elected officials to find out what more we can do to make short term progress,” he said. “You can expect that you will hear more from me in the coming months and years about how we can shape an agenda that garners bipartisan support and help moves this agenda forward.”
Opinion: Tread carefully linking extreme weather to climate crisis
A cultural shift to our approach on emissions and climate mitigation requires a broader long-term view. Tying the issue to extreme events like Hurricane Sandy won’t produce the change we need.
We don’t need another weather catastrophe to turn America around. We need a major cultural shift that drives people to passionately care about the storms our grandchildren and other people across the globe will experience when we are gone.
Enabling this cultural shift will require taking a longer-term and broader view toward climate engagement efforts than we have in the past. It will require directing resources to support efforts that strengthen American concerns for future generations and the common good, even those that are not tied to immediate climate benefits. At the same time, we need to prioritize the fight to get money out of politics so that peoples’ voices and values can be heard and so they can be empowered to make the changes they demand.
U.S. Oil Output to Overtake Saudi Arabia’s by 2020
(Bloomberg) U.S. oil output is poised to surpass Saudi Arabia’s in the next decade, making the world’s biggest fuel consumer almost self-reliant and putting it on track to become a net exporter, the International Energy Agency said.
Growing supplies of crude extracted through new technology including hydraulic fracturing of underground rock formations will transform the U.S. into the largest producer for about five years starting about 2020, the Paris-based adviser to 28 nations said today in its annual World Energy Outlook. The U.S. met 83 percent of its energy needs in the first six months of this year, according to the Energy Department in Washington. See also Emerging Markets US to become world’s largest oil producer: IEA
China’s Oil Investment Is Not a Threat
The Chinese purchase of a Canadian oil company is something U.S. officials should welcome, not fear.
(Foreign Policy) This July, China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), the state-owned giant that dominates exploration and production off China’s coast, announced the $15.1 billion acquisition of Nexen, a Canadian oil company with assets in the United States and around the world.
1. It gives the United States leverage over Iran.
2. It won’t help CNOOC in the South China Sea. Nexen, however, does not possess the technical capabilities that CNOOC needs to operate in the deep waters of the South China Sea. The Canadian firm is a newcomer to deepwater exploration and production
3. Nexen’s oil will continue to flow to Americans.
4. It will signal that the United States is open to investment from Chinese companies. Creating a more welcoming investment climate for Chinese firms benefits the United States in at least two ways. First, Chinese companies can provide capital to develop oil and natural gas resources, rebuild infrastructure, and create jobs in the United States. Second, welcoming Chinese companies to invest in the United States might even persuade China to reciprocate.
Dan Farber: The Top Ten Problems with Romney’s Energy Proposal
(Legal Planet) 10.It is based on the most optimistic possible projections of expanded oil and gas production.
9. It relies primarily on job predictions in a Citigroup report that — according to the report itself — are “based on sweeping assumptions” and possibly “optimistic.”
8. It would put huge profits in the pockets of Romney’s oil company contributors.
7. It muddles accountability by giving states power over activities on federal lands while the federal government is responsible for dealing with the environmental consequences.
6. It’s billed as Romney’s plan for the middle class, but the largest benefits will go to Big Oil.
5. It ignores the existence of massive subsidies to the oil companies, while ending smaller subsidies to encourage renewable energy. The platform ignores the economic insight that renewables “benefit not just the renewable industry, or even renewable energy consumers, but everyone – they are a public good.”
4. It would increase air pollution by ramping up the use of coal and oil at the expense of renewables.
3. It ignores the environmental impacts of drilling on the coast, the Alaskan wilderness, and our public lands — not to mention the effects of strip mining and mountain top destruction.
2. It makes an unfounded claim to achieve energy independence for the United States. Energy economists say this goal is “unattainable.”
1. The economists’ view is that ” it is a lot less costly to control greenhouse gases now than it is for future generations to suffer the costs of climate change.” But the GOP platform calls for a fossil fuel feeding frenzy that would cause massive increases in carbon, helping to damage the planet for generations to come.
Paul Ryan Is a Climate Change Denialist
(Slate) Since entering Congress, he has been striving to perfect his anti-environmental record.
The most explicit statement of Ryan’s climate change views appears in this 2009 op-ed, and since he still features it on his official website, we can take it as an indication of his beliefs. And what a litany of classic denialist dogma it is. He starts off with a cheap shot by implying that Wisconsin residents ought to have a hard time believing that global warming is a problem because they still had to shovel snow in the winter of 2009. Of course, it is absurd to think that any one winter says anything about global warming, still less to think that continued existence or even increase of snowfall is in any way incompatible with overall warming. If Ryan wanted to keep things local, he would have done better to talk to ice fishermen on the Wisconsin lakes, who have seen a dramatic decrease in the duration of ice cover over the past decades.
T. Boone Pickens Blasts Romney Energy Plan
In a riveting interview on “CBS This Morning” billionaire oil investor T. Boone Pickens slammed presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s energy plan, saying it focuses entirely on new oil drilling with no mention of natural gas.
“The United States has more natural gas than any other country in the world… but there was no mention of [it],” Pickens said.
President Obama’s “plan” isn’t much better, according to Pickens.
“They don’t know anything about energy in Washington. We’re still importing dirty OPEC crude. Why are we going to take clean natural gas and send it out of the country,” he said referring to both candidates calls for exporting the current glut of natural gas rather than use it for domestic consumption.
The Costs of Fracking
By ROBERT F. KENNEDY Jr., President, Waterkeeper Alliance and .
PAUL GALLAY, President, Hudson Riverkeeper
(New York Times Opinion via 404 System Error) As regulators weigh the benefits of drilling 40,000 gas wells across New York State, the Department of Environmental Conservation’s scant analysis of fracking’s potential costs overstates job benefits and omits state Transportation Department estimates of road maintenance costs exceeding $375 million.
Numerous studies show that drill-friendly communities underperform their neighbors in income, employment, education and investment. The D.E.C. now admits that its review was inadequate. Worse, the department completely ignores fracking’s health effects despite compelling evidence from Texas of asthma levels three times higher in areas affected by fracking.
Obama’s energy policy takes center stage as $4 gas prices loom
Obama’s energy policy will be the subject of the president’s three-stop tour starting Wednesday. He wants to deflect criticism that he’s not doing enough to fight rising gas prices. Even while Obama was flying west, the price of gasoline at the pump continued to rise. On Wednesday, according to AAA, the national average jumped 2 cents a gallon compared with Tuesday and up 30 cents a gallon from a month ago. More increases are on the way. Within the next two weeks, refiners will start to shift over to the summer blend of gasoline, which is more expensive to produce.
Obama ‘welcomes’ plan to build southern Keystone leg
Portion does not require State Dept. approval
(Ottawa Citizen) “The president welcomes today’s news that TransCanada plans to build a pipeline to bring crude oil from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf of Mexico,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
The plan will “help address the bottleneck of oil” in the U.S. Midwest that has resulted from increased domestic production in areas like the Bakken oilfields of North Dakota.
Turner: Congress is wrong on Keystone pipeline
The U.S. Congress is trying to wrest decision-making control over the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude oil from Canada’s tar sands to American Gulf Coast refineries, bypassing final environmental review of the project even before its route has been chosen, writes Ted Turner, founder and chairman of the United Nations Foundation. “Congress should not be in the business of skirting the rules and ramming through a polluting project,” he writes. “Instead of supporting the transport of dirty tar sands oil, its focus should be on harnessing truly clean, renewable energy sources like solar, wind and biofuels, which will create thousands of long-lasting jobs.” CNN (2/22)
U.S. House passes Keystone bill, Senate action uncertain
(Ottawa Citizen) The U.S. House of Representatives passed an energy bill on Thursday that would wrest control of a permit for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline away from President Barack Obama, who has put the project on hold.
The bill, part of a broader House Republican effort to fund highways and infrastructure projects, would also expand offshore oil drilling and open up parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.
While approval of the Keystone measure by the House was widely expected, what happens with a similar proposal in the Democratic-controlled Senate is not yet clear.
Keystone back on hot seat on Capitol Hill; Republicans try to force approval
(Yahoo! News) Congressional Republicans have resurrected their efforts to force speedy approval of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, attempting to insert provisions aimed at greenlighting the project into legislation before both the House of Representatives and the Senate this week.
Obama Blames GOP Deadline for Keystone Rejection
The partisan fight over the controversial pipeline reignites after the president formally rejects the needed permit application.
Are environmental concerns being sacrificed?
As the US gears up for the 2012 presidential election, environmental issues have become one of the major talking points.
(Al Jazeera) Climate change, offshore drilling and renewable energy are all coming under the spotlight in early campaigning.
Republicans are trying to put Democrats on the defensive by calling environmental regulations “job killers”. And Democrats are working to label Republicans whose party is often called “The GOP – or The Grand Old Party” as the “Grand Oil Party.”
Keystone inspector alleges shoddy work on original pipeline
A former inspector for a company that did work on TransCanada Corp.’s original Keystone pipeline is accusing the Calgary-based company of a cavalier disregard for the environment.
Mike Klink was an engineer for construction company Bechtel Corp., a contractor that worked on the first portion of the Keystone pipeline that carries Alberta oil sands crude to refineries in the U.S. Midwest.
19 December 2010
Keystone XL: Liberal Histrionics Answered With Conservative Histrionics
(Forbes) The argument for allowing the construction of the Keystone pipeline to go forward is simple but, perhaps, not politically all that sexy; the federal government should not needlessly frustrate markets and the gains from trade that go to market participants; firms, consumers, and labor. While conservatives might be forgiven for answering environmentalist histrionics with economic histrionics, they should not be forgiven for forwarding economic fairy-tales about how oil markets work or making such a minor issue a central plank of their policy agenda.
U.S. to Delay Decision on Pipeline Until After Election
(NYT) The Obama administration is preparing to delay a decision on the contested Keystone XL pipeline while it studies an alternate route, effectively pushing any action past the 2012 election, officials and lobbyists who have been briefed on the matter said on Thursday. An announcement is expected as early as Thursday afternoon.
Keystone pipeline decision faces special U.S. review
(CBC) The State Department’s inspector general will review the Obama administration’s handling of a TransCanada’s request to pipe oil from western Canada to Texas, following complaints from 13 Democratic lawmakers and one independent.
Keystone pipeline: State Department agrees to investigate charges
(The Guardian) Inspector general launches investigation after conflict of interest charges from environmental groups and politicians
In a memo, the State Department inspector general’s office appointed a senior official to review charges that the oil industry exerted too much weight over decisions about the pipeline project.
Opponents of the pipeline say the State Department rushed through an environmental review, and was too cozy with lobbyists for TransCanada, the company building the pipeline.
Keystone Pipeline debate heats up
(WaPost) Foes of the project — which has become a test of how President Obama balances environmental considerations against economic and energy supply concerns — will try to turn up the noise Sunday with a rally around the White House. Unemployed workers who support the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline are planning to counter with a blitz of media interviews over the weekend.
Solyndra scandal probe widens as White House orders new review
(CMS) Faced with a growing scandal over the bankrupt Solyndra solar power company, the Obama administration has ordered an independent review of government loans to energy companies. Republican lawmakers say they’ll subpoena internal White House communications on Solyndra.
U.S. EPA Developing Wastewater Rules For Shale Gas
(Reuters|Planet Ark) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday it will develop rules for the booming shale gas industry to dispose of its wastewater, which has been linked to polluted surface water.
The move is one of several that signal the Obama administration plans to push ahead with regulating whatever aspects of shale gas production fall under its authority.
Robert Redford weighs in on oilsands pipeline debate
(Toronto Sun) Actor Robert Redford is the latest opposing voice to squash the Keystone XL pipeline project.
Redford appeared in a three-minute video on the New York Times website Tuesday, speaking out against the $7-billion TransCanada Corp project.
“The Keystone XL pipeline would carry the dirtiest oil on the planet from Canada to America’s gulf coast refineries and ports,” said Redford in the video. “The Keystone XL is a bad idea, an idea that needs to be stopped.”
Redford’s opposition is the latest in a mounting fight against the line that would flow up to 830,000 barrels of crude each day through six American states to the Gulf of Mexico.
TransCanada Chief Girling Says Keystone Pipeline Opposition Surprised Him
(Bloomberg) Girling spoke as environmentalists wearing blue T-shirts saying “No tar sands” filled most of the seats in a meeting room in Washington and applauded every opponent testifying during the final public hearing on TransCanada’s plan.
E-mails fuel charges of ‘complicity’ between State, TransCan
(Globe&Mail) The relationship between Paul Elliott, a TransCanada lobbyist, and various State Department employees is at the heart of the hundreds of pages of internal correspondence released to environmental groups as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. Many are e-mails between Mr. Elliott, and Marja Verloop, the State Department’s counsellor for energy and environment at the U.S. embassy in Ottawa.
Robert Redford: Punching back at Big Oil
(HuffPost) When you challenge Big Oil in Houston, you can bet the industry is going to punch back. So when I wrote in the Houston Chronicle earlier this month that we should say no to the Keystone XL pipeline, I wasn’t surprised when the project’s chief executive weighed in with a different view. The corporate rejoinder, written by Alex Pourbaix, president for energy and oil pipelines for the TransCanada Corp., purported to cite “errors” in my oped. Let’s set the record straight, point by point.
First, the Keystone XL, as proposed, would run from Canada across the width of our country to Texas oil refineries and ports. It would carry diluted bitumen, a kind of crude oil, produced from the Alberta tar sands. On those points, we all agree.
Republicans Decrying ‘Job Killing’ Green Energy Agenda Have Sought Green Jobs For Their Own Districts
The GOP-led House Oversight Committee may be accusing the White House of a “job killing” green energy agenda in a hearing Thursday — but at least ten Republicans on the panel have signed letters seeking to land green energy jobs in their districts.
In dozens of letters obtained by The Huffington Post, the lawmakers, led by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), argue convincingly about Department of Energy funding going to their favored projects, often touting the job-creating potential of numerous endeavors.
Andrew Revkin: Can Obama Escape the Alberta Tar Pit?
(Dot Earth) President Obama is in a situation right now somewhat akin to that facing the creatures that once prowled the edges of the La Brea tar pits — a sticky trap that caught and consumed the least wary or agile members of many species.
For Obama, the physical tar pit lies far away in northeastern Alberta province, Canada, but a rhetorical one surrounds him in Washington as the fight to shape his position on an oil pipeline draws toward a climax. He has a way out, but it’s a tricky path.
Dozens arrested outside White House in Keystone pipeline protests
(Globe&Mail) About 100 protesters, carrying a large banner that read “Climate Change Is Not In Our National Interest,” gathered peacefully outside the White House on sunny and humid Saturday morning, chanting “hey-ho, Keystone XL has got to go.”
As many as 2,000 people are expected to participate in the civil disobedience that began Saturday and will continue until Sept. 3 with daily gatherings outside the White House.
They’re staging the protest as the U.S. State Department is poised to release its final environmental assessment of TransCanada’s $7-billion project. That report is expected within days, and Mr. Obama will then have 90 days to decide whether granting the Calgary-based oil giant a pipeline permit is in the U.S. national interest.
Rick Perry says he doesn’t believe in global warming
(AP via Globe&Mail) GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry told New Hampshire voters Wednesday that he does not believe in man-made global warming, calling it a scientific theory that has not been proven. … he made his global warming comment in response to a question by an audience member who cited evidence from the National Academy of Sciences.
But Mr. Perry’s opinion runs counter to the view held by an overwhelming majority of scientists that pollution released from the burning of fossil fuels is heating up the planet. Mr. Perry’s home state of Texas releases more heat-trapping pollution carbon dioxide — the chief greenhouse gas — than any other state in the country, according to government data.
Natural resources minister tries to sway U.S. on controversial Keystone pipeline
(Globe & Mail) The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has passed a bill to force a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline by Nov. 1. But the legislation is now in the hands of the U.S. Senate which is controlled by Democrats, many of whom are vehemently opposed to the project.
Critics say it would increase U.S. dependence on “dirty” oil sands crude. There are also concerns a spill could harm key drinking water sources. Senators have been told that the first stages of the pipeline, which have been in operation for less than a year and deliver crude from Alberta to the U.S. Midwest, have spilled 12 times.
Why more oil sands crude in U.S. doesn’t make sense
By Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, Director of the international program at the Natural Resources Defense Council
(Globe & Mail) … the United States has enough tar sands pipeline capacity right now without needing more of the oil sent in a high cost, high risk transboundary pipeline. The State Department as the agency responsible for permitting the Keystone XL pipeline has shown it would be more than a decade before the pipeline would do anything more than shift tar sands oil from its current destination in the Midwest to the Gulf coast. Far from helping America relieve high gasoline prices, this move could actually raise Midwestern gas prices.
It’s also unlikely the Keystone XL pipeline will replace oil from the Middle East since, being the tar sands’ first major pipeline to a port, it will more likely cause Canadian oil to be sent outside the United States. That makes us the friendly neighbor to the south, allowing Canadian oil across our land and waters only to have the pollution remain. University of Calgary economist Phil Verleger recently wrote that Gulf coast oil is increasingly destined for export.
New E-Waste Regulations Introduced By State And Local Governments
Residents of North and South Carolina can no longer toss their old laptops, flat-screen TVs or a host of other unwanted gadgets out with the trash starting Friday. The Carolinas join a growing list of state and local governments that have adopted recycling rules aimed at curbing the health and environmental hazards of discarded electronics.
The move comes on the heels of a federal bill proposed last week, H.R. 2284, that would further mandate that electronics recycling does not occur in developing countries where lagging disassembly methods expose impoverished people — often children — to potentially toxic levels of lead, mercury and other chemicals.
New York Steps Closer To Allowing Hydrofracking
(Reuters/Planet Ark) New York state would throw open its share of one of the world’s richest natural gas deposits to drilling under recommendations made by its environmental agency, creating a potential boom feared by environmentalists.
While taking steps to protect New York City’s drinking water, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recommendations to Governor Andrew Cuomo would lift an effective moratorium on the controversial natural gas extraction technique known as hydraulic fracturing.
Natural gas drilling in New York state would lead to $11.4 billion in economic output and raise $1.4 billion in state and local tax revenue, according to a study led by Timothy Considine, a professor of energy economics at the University of Wyoming and an advocate for drilling in New York. … Considine … looked at the environmental impact of drilling in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania to gauge the impact in New York. Of the 2,139 wells drilled from 2008 to 2010 in the Pennsylvania Marcellus shale, 1,924 incurred environmental violations, the report said.
Wanted: Republicans for Responsible Oil Policy
(NYT/Dot Earth) When President Obama announced the release of oil from the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve today, the usual suspects weighed in all around
House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, unsurprisingly, had a markedly different reaction, saying that Obama was “using a national security instrument to address his domestic political problems.” His statement also reminds voters of the Republican approach to energy, which boils down to one word — more — and is only slightly more fleshed out on a Facebook page called the “American Energy Initiative.”
Where are the White House’s Solar Panels?
(Mother Jones) Last fall, after a persistent campaign by enviros, the Obama administration agreed to install solar panels on the roof of the White House. In response to the request from 350.org, Energy Secretary Steven Chu promised that solar panels and a solar hot water heater would grace the roof of the First Family’s residence “by the end of this spring.” But today’s the first day of summer, and there’s still no solar.
Bid to repair Lake Michigan and Great Lakes, one marsh at a time
A $2 billion restoration effort may help rehabilitate Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes, but environmentalists say it may be too late to reverse four centuries’ worth of damage.
“Heckuva Job Brownie” Speaks
(Mother Jones) .. in the years since [Hurricane Katrina], Brown has been on a mission to clean up his image. His latest venture is a health care technology firm, Apokalyyis, Inc., and he has a new book out offering his own take on what went wrong in the wake of the worst hurricane ever to hit the US. Deadly Indifference is one part apology and two parts passing the blame. While Brown does accept fault for the mishandling in some respects, like not being as attentive to some response details as he perhaps should have been, he spends much of the book pointing his finger up the chain of command, from others at a Department of Homeland Security mired in bureaucracy to a commander-in-chief who couldn’t be bothered to take time away from his Crawford vacation to visit the shattered Gulf region. The book’s revelations range from the not-so-revelatory—he feels he was “made the scapegoat”—to accusing Karl Rove and Trent Lott (among others) of capitalizing on the storm for political gain.
Oil Glut at Cushing Oklahoma Could Last Two Years
Canada is sending so much oil to the U.S. that our pipelines and storage facilities can’t handle it. Reuters reports that our key storage facilities at Cushing Oklahoma are filled to capacity and are not equipped to handle the oil flow.
The bottleneck, according to Reuters, is being caused by a shortage of pipelines from Cushing to move the oil to the Gulf coast for refining. In addition, Cushing does not have enough storage tanks handle the oil. … Meanwhile, Canada is frustrated with our inability to handle its oil flows and plans to build a pipeline to the west coast and ship its oil to China.
Environmental Dangers of Hydro-Fracturing the Marcellus Shale
(Robert Myers|Lock Haven University) The state forests, where generations of Pennsylvanians have hunted, fished, and hiked, have been defaced by a growing network of well pads. But even more disturbing are the effects that we can’t see. Unknown chemicals are being pumped thousands of feet underground. The extreme pressures involved in the hydro-fracturing process are forcing methane gas into people’s homes and into their water supplies. Thousands of gallons of chemicals have been spilled in our forests and streams. It’s clear to me that hydro-fracturing is the single biggest environmental threat to Pennsylvania that this generation faces.
U.S. in Contempt Over Gulf Drill Ban, Judge Rules
(Bloomberg) The Obama Administration acted in contempt by continuing its deepwater-drilling moratorium after the policy was struck down, a New Orleans judge ruled.
Interior Department regulators acted with “determined disregard” by lifting and reinstituting a series of policy changes that restricted offshore drilling, following the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, U.S. District Judge, Martin Feldman of New Orleans ruled yesterday.
(SBS/Special Broadcasting Service) It is happening all across America – rural landowners wake up one day to find a lucrative offer from an energy company wanting to lease their property. Reason? The company hopes to tap into a reservoir dubbed the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas.” Halliburton developed a way to get the gas out of the ground-a hydraulic drilling process called ‘fracking’ – and suddenly America finds itself on the precipice of becoming an energy superpower.
Democrats Use Oil Spill to Spur Environmental Bills
The Gulf spill may help get climate change legislation through Congress
(USNews) As Hurricane Alex ripped through the Gulf of Mexico last week, pushing waves of oil onto the shores of coastal states and postponing cleanup efforts, Congress shored up a few energy-related bills in Washington. While the spill has been a dark cloud for environmentalists, it may provide the political impetus that proponents of long-term conservation and climate change legislation have been looking for.
Kerry-Lieberman Climate Bill Generates Praise and Outrage
(ENS) The American Power Act, a bill proposing a cap and trade system for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, was introduced today in the U.S. Senate. Written by Senators John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Independent, the bill aims to reduce emissions by 17 percent in 2020 and by over 80 percent in 2050.
Obama Defends Clean Coal, Tells Renewables Activist “Don’t Be Stubborn”
In early February to little fanfare, President Obama created a task force on Carbon Capture and Storage. The purpose? A strategy to speed up clean coal development. The President hopes to have five to 10 commercial clean coal demonstration projects up and going by 2016.