32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals
Friday, March 30, 2012
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals
Thursday, March 29, 2012
The President said in part, "Today, members of Congress have a simple choice to make: They can stand with the big oil companies, or they can stand with the American people. Right now, the biggest oil companies are raking in record profits -- profits that go up every time folks pull up into a gas station. But on top of these record profits, oil companies are also getting billions a year -- billions a year in taxpayer subsidies -- a subsidy that they've enjoyed year after year for the last century. . .
"It's not as if these companies can't stand on their own. Last year, the three biggest U.S. oil companies took home more than $80 billion in profits. Exxon pocketed nearly $4.7 million every hour. And when the price of oil goes up, prices at the pump go up, and so do these companies' profits. In fact, one analysis shows that every time gas goes up by a penny, these companies usually pocket another $200 million in quarterly profits. Meanwhile, these companies pay a lower tax rate than most other companies on their investments, partly because we're giving them billions in tax giveaways every year. . .
"Instead of taxpayer giveaways to an industry that's never been more profitable, we should be using that money to double-down on investments in clean energy technologies that have never been more promising -- investments in wind power and solar power and biofuels; investments in fuel-efficient cars and trucks, and energy-efficient homes and buildings. That's the future. That's the only way we're going to break this cycle of high gas prices that happen year after year after year. As the economy is growing, the only time you start seeing lower gas prices is when the economy is doing badly. That's not the kind of pattern that we want to be in. We want the economy doing well, and people to be able to afford their energy costs. . .
"We're going to keep investing in clean energy like the wind power and solar power that's already lighting thousands of homes and creating thousands of jobs. We're going to keep manufacturing more cars and trucks to get more miles to the gallon so that you can fill up once every two weeks instead of every week. We're going to keep building more homes and businesses that waste less energy so that you're in charge of your own energy bills. . . Today, the American people are going to be watching Congress to see if they have that same faith."
While the President was speaking a majority of the Senate, 51 Senators voted for the bill to end the subsidies; however, under Senate rules 60 votes were required to approve the measure. Thus, the subsidies will continue, as 43 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted against the measure. The four Democrats included Senators Begich (D-AK), Landrieu (D-LA), Nelson (D-NE), and Webb (D-VA). Two Republicans, joined the Democrats and two Independents in supporting the measure -- Senators Collins (R-ME) and Snowe (R-ME). Two Republican Senators did not vote.
Access the complete statement from the President (click here). Access the roll call vote (click here). Access legislative details for S.2204 (click here). Access the statement and floor speech from Sen. Menendez (click here). Access the statement from Sen. Inhofe (click here). Access the statement from NRDC with links to related information (click here). Access the statement from Sierra Club (click here). Access the statement from API (click here). [#Energy/OilNatGas]
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
"EPA's proposal is rife with legal and structural deficiencies that could ultimately allow the scope of the rule to expand well beyond the entities EPA seeks to regulate. Even worse, the agency has proposed this dubious new regulation while a legal cloud hangs over the fundamental question of whether it can regulate greenhouse gases at all. Today's announcement is another in a long string of actions this administration has taken that weaken our energy security and raise energy prices. Given recent court decisions finding that EPA overreachedincluding three in the last weekthe Chamber will be evaluating all of its options to overturn this rule if it is ultimately issued."
"Specifically, this latest proposed regulation would limit the construction of new coal fuel power plants, taking a stable and affordable source of energy off the table and putting the power grid at further risk. The impact will be higher electricity prices on manufacturers and consumers versus lower energy prices that allow manufacturers to continue to lead the economic recovery and create jobs. With this latest action from the EPA to effectively take clean coal off the table, it is clear the agency doesn't understand the benefits of a true 'all of the above' energy strategy that grows jobs and enhances our energy security. Manufacturers and the 12 million people making things in America want a strategy that includes all available domestic sources of energy, including clean coal. Piling on with more costly regulations is not the answer."
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "Today we're taking a common-sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy. Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies -- and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow. We're putting in place a standard that relies on the use of clean, American made technology to tackle a challenge that we can't leave to our kids and grandkids."
Currently, there is no uniform national limit on the amount of carbon pollution new power plants can emit. As a direct result of the Supreme Court's 2007 ruling, EPA in 2009 determined that greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans' health and welfare by leading to long lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment.
EPA indicated that the proposed standard is flexible and would help minimize carbon pollution through the deployment of the same types of modern technologies and steps that power companies are already taking to build the next generation of power plants. EPA said its proposal is in line with these investments and will ensure that this progress toward a cleaner, safer and more modern power sector continues. The proposed standards can be met by a range of power facilities burning different fossil fuels, including natural gas technologies that are already widespread, as well as coal with technologies to reduce carbon emissions. EPA said that, "Even without today's action, the power plants that are currently projected to be built going forward would already comply with the standard. As a result, EPA does not project additional cost for industry to comply with this standard."
EPA said that prior to developing this standard, it engaged in an extensive and open public process to gather the latest information to aid in developing a carbon pollution standard for new power plants. The Agency is seeking additional comment and information, including public hearings, and will take that input fully into account as it completes the rulemaking process. EPA's comment period will be open for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.
"While highly efficient natural gas-fired power plants would meet the standard proposed today, new coal-fired power plants not already in the pipeline could likely meet the standard only by capturing and permanently sequestering their greenhouse gas emissions. This underscores the urgency of stronger public and private investment in carbon capture and storage technologies. The United States, China and India -- the world's three largest greenhouse gas emitters -- all have substantial coal reserves. If we can't figure out how to get the energy value out of coal with a minimal carbon footprint, we will not solve the climate problem. With prospects for substantial public investment in CCS unclear, C2ES is now working with policymakers and stakeholders on ways to expand enhanced oil recovery using captured carbon dioxide -- an approach that can boost domestic oil production, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help lay the groundwork for full-scale carbon capture and storage."
"We commend EPA for this step to advance the Administration's commitment to reduce U.S. emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Today's announcement follows the Administration's introduction of historic standards for light-duty vehicles in November 2011. Moving forward, it will be important for EPA to address carbon emissions for existing power plants as well. Existing plants represent a significant opportunity to improve efficiency and reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. We can achieve these reductions at low cost while providing power plants flexibility in complying with them."
Monday, March 26, 2012
"So we are drilling all over the place -- right now. That's not the challenge. That's not the problem. In fact, the problem in a place like Cushing is that we're actually producing so much oil and gas in places like North Dakota and Colorado that we don't have enough pipeline capacity to transport all of it to where it needs to go -- both to refineries, and then, eventually, all across the country and around the world. There's a bottleneck right here because we can't get enough of the oil to our refineries fast enough. And if we could, then we would be able to increase our oil supplies at a time when they're needed as much as possible.
"Now, right now, a company called TransCanada has applied to build a new pipeline to speed more oil from Cushing to state-of-the-art refineries down on the Gulf Coast. And today, I'm directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.
"Now, you wouldn't know all this from listening to the television set. This whole issue of the Keystone pipeline had generated, obviously, a lot of controversy and a lot of politics. And that's because the original route from Canada into the United States was planned through an area in Nebraska that supplies some drinking water for nearly 2 million Americans, and irrigation for a good portion of America's croplands. And Nebraskans of all political stripes -- including the Republican governor there -- raised some concerns about the safety and wisdom of that route.
"So to be extra careful that the construction of the pipeline in an area like that wouldn't put the health and the safety of the American people at risk, our experts said that we needed a certain amount of time to review the project. Unfortunately, Congress decided they wanted their own timeline -- not the company, not the experts, but members of Congress who decided this might be a fun political issue, decided to try to intervene and make it impossible for us to make an informed decision.
So what we've said to the company is, we're happy to review future permits. And today, we're making this new pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf a priority. So the southern leg of it we're making a priority, and we're going to go ahead and get that done. The northern portion of it we're going to have to review properly to make sure that the health and safety of the American people are protected. That's common sense. . ."
The President went on to discuss the fact that the U.S. uses 20 percent of the world's oil; we only produce 2 percent of the world's oil; and, therefore, drilling alone is not the answer to long term energy problems. He said we must "continually improve the utilization of renewable energy sources, new clean energy sources, and how do we become more efficient in our use of energy. . . After 30 years of not doing anything, we finally increased fuel-efficiency standards on cars and trucks, and Americans are now designing and building cars that will go nearly twice as far on the same gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade. And that's going to save the average family $8,000 over the life of a car. . .
"We've got to use our innovation. We've got to use our brain power. We've got to use our creativity. We've got to have a vision for the future, not just constantly looking backwards at the past. That's where we need to go. That's the future we can build. . . And that's how we have to think about energy. And if we do, not only are we going to see jobs and growth and success here in Cushing, Oklahoma, we're going to see it all across the country."
As the President spoke in Cushing, the Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Pubic Works (EPW) Committee, James Inhofe (R-OK) grilled the EPA Administrator on the FY 2013 budget and said, "I think President Obama -- the same President who told us that fossil fuels will bring the world to an end -- is in Oklahoma today standing in an oil field touting oil and gas production. The only explanation is that he is running scared from his anti-fossil fuel agenda that he has asked you to implement for the past three years. This agenda is one specifically designed to increase the price of gas at the pump and energy in our homes. Remember, President Obama himself said that under his plan, energy costs would 'necessarily skyrocket.' But this is not a record that gets you reelected. . .
"But even as President Obama stands in an Oklahoma oil field, pretending to support this pipeline to save his job, he continues full force with his efforts to regulate fossil fuels out of existence, spearheaded in large part by your agency. His EPA is moving forward with an unprecedented barrage of expensive rules, from greenhouse gas regulations, to hydraulic fracturing, to clean water regulations, with the express purpose of eliminating fossil fuels. . ."
Access the President's Cushing speech (click here). Access the President's New Mexico speech (click here). Access the President's Nevada speech (click here). Access the President's Ohio speech (click here). Access a release from Senator Inhofe (click here). Access a release and video from Senator Murkowski (click here). Access a posting, statement and video from Speaker Boehner (click here). Access the TransCanada Keystone XL project website for additional information (click here). Access complete details and background from the DOS Keystone XL Pipeline Project website (click here). [#Energy/Pipeline, #Energy/KXL, #Energy/OilSands, #Energy/TarSands]
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Chairman Issa said one report documents that "DOE disregarded its own taxpayer protections, ignored lending standards and eligibility requirements, and as a result, amassed an excessively risky loan portfolio -- some $14.5 billion in total loan guarantees were authorized. Oversight investigators also identified instances when DOE faced barriers to completing a loan and simply sought to justify and overcome those regulatory barriers rather than giving the barriers due consideration. In one glaring example, the report shows how DOE appears to have manipulated analysis and strategically modified evaluations in order to issue loans to First Solar that would make the project qualify under the statutory and regulatory guidelines."
A related Republican Committee report also documents "shortcomings" from a $5 billion federal weatherization improvement program funded through the Department of Energy. According to the report, the program "[R]epresents the kind of failure that materializes when you have an economic stimulus strategy contingent upon asking the federal bureaucracy to absorb billions of dollars when the structural infrastructure to administer, disseminate and manage that influx of new money is not put in place." The release indicates that, "The report documents faulty construction and retrofitting that left consumers with faulty home electrical, ventilation, insulation and other systems. It also includes a series of photographs showing shoddy workmanship in several states."
Chairman Issa added, "These reports document a Department of Energy seemingly unprepared to deal with the exponential increase in taxpayer funds it received under the stimulus, leading to serious questions of waste and abuse. Taxpayers are right to expect better from the Department of Energy and the Obama Administration and to seek protections that this type of approach can be avoided in the future."
In an opening statement at a hearing today to investigate DOE loan and funding programs with Secretary Steven Chu, Chairman Issa said, "Today the price of gasoline is approaching $4.00 per gallon, twice its level in 2009. American consumers understandably ask what the Department of Energy and the Obama Administration have done to address this. But during the Obama Administration, you might say the DOE has been DOA when it comes to delivering affordable energy to consumers.
"A report released today by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform paints a startling picture of mismanagement at the Department of Energy. From the very inception of the Obama Administration's $14.5 billion loan program, warning signs pointed to a likely loss of taxpayer dollars -- these signs were largely ignored by Administration officials seemingly more interested in picking political winners and losers than addressing American consumers' need for abundant and affordable energy. There appears to be a significant amount of evidence indicating that DOE manipulated analyses and strategically modified evaluations in order to get loans out the door. . . By addressing the issues raised at today's hearing, we can help put our country back on the path to achieve these two goals and deliver real benefit to the American people."
Rep. Cummings said, "As a result of our Committee's extremely broad jurisdiction, we have a tremendous opportunity to perform constructive oversight of the Department of Energy and the energy industry to promote the bipartisan goal of energy independence for our nation. Although I fully support aggressive oversight to ensure that government programs work effectively and efficiently, I believe the Committee should refrain from making accusations without evidence to support them and should correct the record when claims turn out to be inaccurate. Only in this way will we be able to uphold the integrity of the Committee and protect the reputations of officials who have dedicated their careers to serving this nation."
Access the Republican Committee release (click here). Access a release and letter from Rep. Cummings (click here). Access links to the reports and Secretary Chu's testimony (click here). [#Energy/Efficiency, #Energy/Renewable]
Monday, March 19, 2012
Friday, March 16, 2012
The report, OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction, presents the latest projections of socio-economic trends over the next four decades, and their implications for four key areas of concern: climate change, biodiversity, water and the health impacts of environmental pollution. Despite the recent recession, the global economy is projected to nearly quadruple to 2050. Rising living standards will be accompanied by ever growing demands for energy, food and natural resources - and more pollution. The report indicates that, "The costs of inaction could be colossal, both in economic and human terms." Without new policies:
- World energy demand in 2050 will be 80% higher, with most of the growth to come from emerging economies (for North America about +15%, for OECD Europe +28%, for Japan +2.5, for Mexico +112%) and still 85% reliant on fossil fuel-based energy. This could lead to a 50% increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally and worsening air pollution.
- Urban air pollution is set to become the top environmental cause of mortality worldwide by 2050, ahead of dirty water and lack of sanitation. The number of premature deaths from exposure to particulate air pollutants leading to respiratory failure could double from current levels to 3.6 million every year globally, with most occurring in China and India. Because of their ageing and urbanized populations, OECD countries are likely to have one of the highest rate of premature death from ground-level ozone in 2050, second only to India.
- On land, global biodiversity is projected to decline by a further 10%, with significant losses in Asia, Europe and Southern Africa. Areas of mature forests are projected to shrink by 13%. About one-third of biodiversity in rivers and lakes worldwide has already been lost, and further losses are projected to 2050.
- Global water demand will increase by some 55%, due to growing demand from manufacturing (+400%), thermal power plants (+140%) and domestic use (+130%). These competing demands will put water use by farmers at risk. 2.3 billion more people than today -- over 40% of the global population -- will be living in river basins under severe water stress, especially in North and South Africa, and South and Central Asia.
According to a release, well-designed policies to tackle environmental problems can also help to address other environmental challenges, and contribute to growth and development. Tackling local air pollution contributes not only to cutting GHG emissions but also to reducing the economic burden of chronic and costly health problems. Moreover, climate policies help protect biodiversity, for example by reducing emissions from deforestation.
To avert the grim future painted by the Environmental Outlook to 2050, the report recommends "a cocktail of policy solutions:" using environmental taxes and emissions trading schemes to make pollution more costly than greener alternatives; valuing and pricing natural assets and ecosystem services like clean air, water and biodiversity for their true worth; removing environmentally harmful subsidies to fossil fuels or wasteful irrigation schemes; and encouraging green innovation by making polluting production and consumption modes more expensive while providing public support for basic R&D.
Green growth policies are already in place in many countries. OECD cites for example, Mexico's new pilot programme gives direct cash transfers to farmers instead of subsidizing the electricity they use to pump irrigation water, thus removing the price distortion that encouraged over-use of groundwater. The UK government has earmarked 3 billion British Pound (GBP 3 billion) for the new UK Green Investment Bank; this should leverage an additional GBP 15 billion of private investment in green energy and recycling by 2015. The US government has been working to phase out preferential tax provisions worth about USD 4 billion per annum that continue to support the production of fossil energy. Capitalizing on its knowledge-base and environmental technologies, city of Kitakyushu in Japan is working with businesses to enhance its competitiveness as a "green city" for low-carbon growth. Governments, businesses, consumers all have a part to play to move towards greener growth.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Consultations are the first step in the WTO dispute settlement process, and parties are encouraged to agree to a solution at this stage. Under WTO rules, if the matter is not resolved through consultations within 60 days, the United States may request the establishment of a WTO dispute settlement panel. The European Union and Japan also requested WTO consultations with China on this matter also.
Ambassador Kirk said, "America's workers and manufacturers are being hurt in both established and budding industrial sectors by these policies. China continues to make its export restraints more restrictive, resulting in massive distortions and harmful disruptions in supply chains for these materials throughout the global marketplace. The launch of this case against China today, along with the President's creation of the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center, reflects the Obama Administration's commitment to make all of our trading partners play by the rules. We will continue fighting for a level playing field for American workers and manufacturers in order to grow our economy, and ensure open markets for products made in America."
The United States recently won a WTO challenge against China's export restraints on nine other industrial inputs. China's export restraint measures on rare earths, tungsten, and molybdenum appear to be part of the same troubling industrial policy aimed at providing substantial competitive advantages for Chinese manufacturers.
China imposes several different types of unfair export restraints on the materials at issue in the consultations request, including export duties, export quotas, export pricing requirements as well as related export procedures and requirements. Because China is a top global producer for these key inputs, its harmful policies artificially increase prices for the inputs outside of China while lowering prices in China. This price dynamic creates significant advantages for China's producers when competing against U.S. producers both in China's market and in other markets around the world. The improper export restraints also contribute to creating substantial pressure on U.S. and other non-Chinese downstream producers to move their operations, jobs, and technologies to China.
Access a release from the U.S. Trade Representative with additional information and background (click here). Access a release from Sen. Stabenow (click here). Access a release from Sen. Murkowski and link to related information (click here). Access legislative details for S.1113 (click here). [#Land]