ENERGY: A Green Opportunity
ENERGY: A Green Opportunity
"Our addiction to oil has grown into a three-pronged crisis: threatening our economy, our national security and our environment," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) at a speech this week at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
|June 13, 2007||by Faiz Shakir, Nico Pitney, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, and Matt Corley
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A Green Opportunity
“Our addiction to oil has grown into a three-pronged crisis: threatening our economy, our national security and our environment,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) at a speech this week at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Indeed, with gas prices averaging over $3.00 per gallon and global carbon emissions exceeding even the most extreme predictions, America — as the world’s leader in oil consumption and pollution — needs a drastic shift in energy policies. This week, Congress is beginning debate on sweeping energy legislation that has “kicked off an epic lobbying war by huge industries” as well as by environmentalists. “This is going to be the mother of all bills. By that I mean, any one portion of it is important enough to affect completion of the whole bill,” said a former senator involved in the energy legislation. It took the 109th Congress four years to produce the 2005 energy bill, which granted large loopholes to big polluters, “and even that measure almost died because of fights over a peripheral issue involving a fuel additive.” In the upcoming weeks, Congress should resist the intense lobbying and media blitz sponsored by big industry and produce legislation that will reduce global greenhouse emissions while also securing clean energy for Americans well into the future.
PAIN IN THE GAS: Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards (CAFE), which govern fuel economy standards for automobiles, have not been updated since 1983. With families being forced to adjust to volatile gas prices by buying less of other items or by dipping into their savings, the typical two-car American family will spend over $3,600 on gas this year if high prices persist. With the current fuel economy standard at roughly 25 mpg, gasoline demand is “the biggest share of the 21 million barrels of oil the United States consumes each day.” The Senate took up an energy bill yesterday that would require automakers to boost fuel economy to an average of 35 mpg by 2020, allowing consumers to reduce the amount of gasoline they need each day, saving approximately three million barrels of oil per day by 2026. Considered the most contentious issue in the bill by Reid, big automakers are arming lobbyists to neuter the new mandates. Detroit automakers urged congressional leaders last week to reconsider the energy bill’s CAFE standards, claiming they would “destroy the domestic auto industry.” Industry allies such as Michigan Sens. Carl Levin (D) and Debbie Stabenow (D) are subsequently offering an amendment to this week that would “set lower standards than the bill calls for.” The U.S. Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has launched factually false, fearmongering-based advertisements in at least ten states, claiming, for instance, that Congress wants to “take your pickup away.” Ironically, “pickup owners overwhelmingly support requiring the auto industry to increase fuel efficiency standards.”
THE COAL HOAX: While greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, “a powerful roster of Democrats and Republicans is pushing to subsidize coal as the king of alternative fuels.” Pushed by heavy lobbying from the coal industry, which is running ad campaigns urging people to “imagine a world where our country runs on energy from Middle America instead of the Middle East,” lawmakers from coal producing states are proposing legislation to subsidize coal-to-liquids fuel. But coal-to-liquid fuels “produce almost twice the volume of greenhouse gases as ordinary diesel” and “create almost a ton of carbon dioxide for every barrel of liquid fuel.” A stronger proposal is carbon capture and storage, as proposed by the Center for American Progress, which would literally “capture” carbon emissions from coal plants before they are dangerously emitted into the atmosphere and use the energy in coal to generate electricity instead of producing liquid fuel. Electrifying cars would also allow renewable energy like solar and wind to further mitigate carbon emissions. This alternative safeguards the environment, as burning liquid coal in automobiles produces more carbon pollution than gasoline.
PIPE CLEANING: In the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that “the federal government does have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases,” the ability to regulate air pollution has created a dichotomy between states and the federal government. For example, California has asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “more than 40 times over the past 30 years” to “waive the agency’s emissions rules to allow the state’s more stringent regulations to take effect.” If California receives the authority to establish its own tailpipe emissions standards, several other states have signaled they will adopt the California program. But a “regressive bill” drafted by Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) and Rick Boucher (D-VA) would override the Court’s decision and block states from reducing “greenhouse gases from vehicles at a time when the states are far ahead of the federal government in dealing with climate change.” Eight governors have voiced strong opposition to such a proposal. The White House is colluding, potentially illegally, to help big industry battle this progressive standard. Yesterday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) wrote to Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Mary Peters requesting information about a voicemail left by a DOT employee that urged members of Congress to oppose California’s request. “Such an effort by the Department appears to be highly inappropriate and would be considered by some to be illegal,” Waxman wrote. In the past week, lobbyists from big chemical and electric companies have twice met with White House allies concerning the EPA, including Vice President Dick Cheney. As the Washington Post said, “What California is seeking permission to do wouldn’t be necessary if the federal government had been serious about air pollution (initially) and global warming (now).”
Human rights organization Amnesty International has adopted a broader sexual and reproductive health policy that calls on states to ensure that women have access to safe abortion care under certain circumstances.
MASSACHUSETTS: Lawmakers meet tomorrow to decide the fate of a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Ranks fourth-worst in the nation in preparing public school students for college.
THINK PROGRESS: Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly defends his lack of Iraq coverage: explosions in Iraq “don’t mean anything.”
BLOG FOR CLEAN AIR: Major polluters lobby White House in meetings.
DEEP SEA NEWS: “The Army now admits that it secretly dumped 64 million pounds of nerve and mustard agents into the sea,” along with hundreds of thousands of chemical-filled munitions and tons of radioactive waste.
NEWS HOUNDS: For Father’s Day, Fox News blames liberals and feminists for almost all of America’s social ills.
“Social conservatives bite bullet, back Rudy.”
“Conservatives would bolt over Rudy.”
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