Article

Energy: Independence From Fossilized Ideas

After six years of rhetorical puffery from President Bush about making the United States "less dependent on foreign oil," the new leadership of the 110th Congress took the initiative last weekend and passed a pair of "far-reaching," forward-looking energy bills that "will increase the use of renewable energy, reduce America's dependence on foreign sources of energy, and decrease global warming pollution."

AUGUST 7 , 2007 by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, and Matt Corley
Contact Us | Tell-a-Friend | Archives | Permalink

ENERGY

Independence From Fossilized Ideas

After six years of rhetorical puffery from President Bush about making the United States “less dependent on foreign oil,” the new leadership of the 110th Congress took the initiative last weekend and passed a pair of “far-reaching,” forward-looking energy bills that “will increase the use of renewable energy, reduce America’s dependence on foreign sources of energy, and decrease global warming pollution.” In a rare Saturday session, the House approved the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act, putting the nation on a path toward greater energy independence and security. Congress also passed a companion tax package totaling nearly $16 billion to help transition to a new energy economy. Bush has threatened to veto the bills. In 1986, the United States imported 27 percent of its oil; today, it imports 60 percent. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) heralded the bipartisan legislation as “just the ambitious first phase in what will be a series of revolutionary actions for energy independence.” Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) said the bill’s passage moves America away not only from our “over-dependence on fossil fuels, but from our dependence on fossilized ideas.”

RENEWABLE ELECTRICITY: The House energy bill passed an amendment requiring electric suppliers to produce 15 percent of their electricity using renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar, by the year 2020. Requiring cleaner, renewable energy is a necessary and effective response to the urgency of our global warming and energy dependence problems. More than 20 states already have similar standards in place or under development. The federal standard is necessary to drive increased use of renewable energy, and “it would be the first such requirement to apply to all the states.” While defenders of the energy industry fought vigorously to deny this important provision, one conservative lawmaker — Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) — explained to his colleagues, “We need to set this goal and then strive every day to reach it. And it is not as hard as the opponents would have us believe.” In addition to the renewable electricity standard, the House energy bill “includes new efficiency standards for appliances, lighting and buildings as well as tax breaks and subsidies for plug-in hybrid cars.” The House bill also included a measure to create new “green collar jobs.” The “Green Jobs Act” makes $125 million available for community-based job training programs at a time when the utility industry faces an aging workforce and the booming renewable and energy efficiency industries sees a skills shortage as a looming bottleneck to their growth.

A CLEANER RIDE: The Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Clean My Ride campaign has called for requiring cars and light trucks to get 35 miles per gallon by 2020, while also increasing the number of service stations that sell ethanol for flexible fuel cars. The energy bill passed by the House this weekend omits the gas mileage standards, deferring the question to a conference committee with the Senate, which has passed the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), Chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, vowed to fight for the fuel efficiency amendment. “As this debate moves to negotiations between the House and Senate over the specifics of the final energy bill,” he said, “I look forward to working with all parties to ensure that the final energy bill this Congress sends to the president contains a strong 35 miles per gallon fuel economy standard.” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has said he is confidence that the final bill sent to Bush will contain a significant increase in automobile fuel economy requirements. The House bill does contain tax credits for “installing ethanol pumps at gas stations, support for development of cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel, and funds to study carbon sequestration.”

PAYING FOR PROGRESS: The House “approved $16 billion in taxes on oil companies, while providing billions of dollars in tax breaks and incentives for renewable energy and conservation efforts.” The bill provides incentives for the production of electricity from renewable energy – “including energy derived from wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, river currents, ocean tides, landfill gas, and trash combustion resources.” One conservative lawmaker, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) bemoaned “the pure venom felt against the oil and gas industry.” In reality, the energy bill acknowledges the reality that oil companies have not done their part to pave the path towards a new energy future. Even while the big five oil conglomerates have enjoyed record profits, they have spent only one half of 1 percent of their profit — $2.5 billion — on investments in clean alternative energy solutions.

UNDER THE RADAR

ETHICS — CREW CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION INTO BOEHNER’S ALLEGED LEAK OF CLASSIFIED INFORMATION: Yesterday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) “filed a complaint with the Department of Justice” asking that it “initiate an investigation into whether House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) violated the law by leaking classified information.” Last week, during an interview with Fox News, Boehner revealed the existence of a secret FISA court ruling that declared a key element of the Bush administration’s wiretapping efforts illegal.” “There’s been a ruling, over the last four or five months, that prohibits the ability of our intelligence services and our counterintelligence people,” Boehner told Fox’s Neil Cavuto. Boehner’s office claimed that his comments were based on a public letter from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and thus not a leak of classified information, but, as the Washington Post points out, “the letter referred only to ‘approval’ of a government surveillance request and did not refer, as Boehner did, to the court’s rejection of surveillance of specific foreign communications routed through the United States.” According to CREW, Boehner appears to have violated 18 U.S.C. § 793(d), which “provides that anyone with lawful possession of information relating to the national defense, which could be used to the injury of the United States, who willfully communicates that information to any person not entitled to receive it, is subject to up to ten years imprisonment.”

POLITICS — CONSERVATIVE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES WARM UP TO YOUTUBE DEBATE: In the first CNN/YouTube presidential debate, voters could upload a 30-second video to YouTube and “directly question a presidential candidate during the debate.” Steve Grove, YouTube’s news and politics editor, called this new debate format “more democratic than ever.” Some conservatives openly mocked the debate, such as former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R-MA), who stated, “I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman,” referring to a citizen dressed as a snowman who submitted a question about global warming. Just two weeks ago, CNN was forced to postpone the debate due to the conservative opposition, but the Washington Times reports that today under public pressure, candidates are changing their minds. “Multiple sources close to the discussions say it was pressure from conservative bloggers, not scheduling conflicts, that made the reluctant Republican candidates reconsider.” “There was a tremendous outpouring of support from the coveted 18-to-35-year-old voters,” said Robert Bluey of the Heritage Foundation, who helped initiate an online petition. “It would be such a shame if Republicans missed this opportunity.” Initially, only two of the ten candidates agreed to participate: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). Now, four are on board, including former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who privately questioned the debate format. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney still “appears less convinced.”

IRAQ — O’HANLON AND POLLACK CALL FOR ANOTHER SIX MONTHS IN IRAQ: This Sunday, Brookings Institution analysts Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, authors of the now infamous New York Times op-ed which cited military progress in Iraq, asked Congress to give the surge “six months or so, maybe nine more months” to stabilize Iraq. But Americans have repeatedly been told at different points that “the next few months” will be the “critical period” in Iraq. The media watchdogs at FAIR noted in 2006 that New York Times columnist Tom Friedman had been repeatedly claiming the “decisive” six months in Iraq were right around the cornerMany in the blogosphere warned that O’Hanlon and Pollack were engaging in the same tactic. As Atrios has frequently noted, many proponents of the war have offered Friedman Units (F.U.)” — i.e. a continual “six-month period that would be required in order to determine the outcome of the Iraq War” — as a way to seek public acquiescence for the occupation. In fact, this is not the first time O’Hanlon and Pollack have called for six months to bring stability to Iraq. In March 2007, O’Hanlon penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal arguing for “another six to nine months before concluding that the current strategy should be discarded and a much different one.” One year earlier, in March of 2006, Pollack told students at Georgetown that there was “a critical six month window of opportunity to bring some form of stability to Iraq.”

THINK FAST

“Britain called Tuesday for the Bush administration to release five British residents held at Guantanamo Bay — a policy reversal that suggests new Prime Minister Gordon Brown is pursuing a tougher line with the U.S. than his predecessor.” During his time as Prime Minister, Tony Blair rarely intervened in Guantanamo cases.

26: Number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq in the last week, beginning a “wave” of violence after a “relatively low death toll in July.”

The new law expanding the Bush administration’s spying powers “gives Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales responsibility for creating the broad procedures determining whose telephone calls and e-mails are collected. It also gives McConnell and Gonzales the role of assessing compliance with those procedures.”

Iraq’s political crisis worsened Monday as five more ministers announced a boycott of Cabinet meetings leaving the embattled prime minister’s unity government with no members affiliated with Sunni political factions.”

Today in Singapore, Al Gore lambasted the misinformation campaign led by the world’s leading carbon polluters. “There has been an organized campaign, financed to the tune of about $10 million a year from some of the largest carbon polluters, to create the impression that there is disagreement in the scientific community,” said Gore. “In actuality, there is very little disagreement.”

And finally: “Imminent rail strikes may be threatening to bring Germany to a standstill,” but “one German train made an unscheduled halt for an entirely different reason — to replace a broken beer keg tap.” A special train ferrying soccer fans to Hamburg faced the “alarming prospect of a beer-less journey” and stopped a Wuppertal station. A “taxi rushed to fetch a replacement for the crucial instrument. Twenty-five minutes later, the new tap had arrived and the train could continue on its way.”

SIGN UP for the Progress Report

Read Our Blog: Think Progress

Features
Under the Radar
Think Fast

INTERNSHIPS

The research team that brings you The Progress Report and ThinkProgress.org needs fall interns! Click here for more information.

GOOD NEWS

“A federal judge yesterday rejected New York City’s efforts to prevent the release of nearly 2,000 pages of raw intelligence reports and other documents detailing the Police Department’s covert surveillance of protest groups and individual activists before the Republican National Convention in 2004.”

STATE WATCH

CALIFORNIA: Federal judge sides with environmentalists in banning a Navy sonar because of its harm to whales.

MASSACHUSETTS: Boston Harbor is set to become the largest port on the East Coast to ban sewage dumped by boaters into the sea.

MICHIGAN: A public university’s steps to accommodate Muslims creates an uprising in the community.

BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: White House Spokesperson Dana Perino: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act bill simply “returns law to its original intent.”

CARPETBAGGER REPORT: Yesterday was the six year anniversary of President Bush receiving an intelligence briefing document titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.”

TPM MUCKRAKER: New Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act legislation brings into question the very definition of electronic surveillance.

DAILY GRILL

“And I think, therefore, this is an interim report from us on the surge, and it’s basically saying nothing more dramatic than give it six more months or so, maybe nine more months.”
— Brookings Institution analyst Michael O’Hanlon, 8/5/07

VERSUS

“There are good reasons to give the war effort, now almost four years old, another six to nine months before concluding that the current strategy should be discarded.”
— O’Hanlon, 3/1/07