So-called energy package a disgrace for Democrats

If the "energy package" about to emerge in the Senate looks anything like what Kate Sheppard is hearing, Senate Democrats should be ashamed. I threw in the towel on the climate bill a long time ago, because it was clear no serious attempt to address global warming could gain 60 votes in the Senate. Still, I thought some decent provisions might survive in a scaled-back energy bill.

Not so, according to Sheppard, who’s among the best reporters covering climate legislation. Sources from “several Senate offices” told her what’s likely to be in the new bill, and what will be conspicuously absent:

Obviously, there’s no carbon cap, that much we already knew. But there’s also no other major energy efficiency standards, and, perhaps most importantly, no renewable electricity standard -not even the weak one included in the energy bill last year. […]

Senate aides hoping to put a positive spin on the package note that it at least does not include any of the really bad measures that progressive senators were worried about, including major incentives for coal and nuclear power and the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases.

Are we supposed to be impressed that the largest Democratic Senate majority in decades won’t press ahead with “really bad measures” for the environment?

For all of President Barack Obama’s talk about our clean energy future, we won’t even get a renewable electricity standard to boost wind and solar production. We won’t get new energy efficiency standards, even though reducing demand for electricity tends to be faster and cheaper than building new facilities to generate electricity.

The American Wind Energy Association put out an action alert urging people to contact their senators demanding a renewable electricity standard in the energy bill. If you are so inclined, you can contact your senators through this page. I will contact the offices of Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley, although doing so probably won’t accomplish anything.

This disgrace gives me yet another reason not to donate to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the future. I don’t plan to waste my money or volunteer time on Organizing for America either. Obama failed to use his bully pulpit to produce a good climate bill and made stupid concessions to polluting industries along the way. He’s so afraid of losing a legislative battle that he didn’t even fight the good fight. But when he signs this worthless energy bill, he’ll probably declare victory in a very inspiring speech.

UPDATE: How pathetic—a White House official provides a blind quote to Politico blaming environmental groups for the Senate’s failure to pass a broad climate bill:

“They didn’t deliver a single Republican,” the official told POLITICO. “They spent like $100 million and they weren’t able to get a single Republican convert on the bill.”

Poor Mr. President. He could have delivered on one of his major campaign promises if the environmentalists hadn’t let him down.

SECOND UPDATE: I couldn’t agree more with Transportation 4 America: “With the Senate backing down on a real climate bill, it’s more important than ever that next transport bill helps make climate progress.”

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Just what the Gulf of Mexico needs: another oil well

Oil from BP’s blown-out Deepwater Horizon well continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico and will do so until August at the earliest. In response, the Obama administration extended a moratorium on deepwater drilling for six months last week. However, the president also "quietly allowed a three-week-old ban on drilling in shallow water to expire" last week (hat tip Open Left). As a result,

Federal regulators approved Wednesday the first new Gulf of Mexico oil well since President Barack Obama lifted a brief ban on drilling in shallow water, even while deepwater projects remain frozen after the massive BP spill.

The Minerals Management Service granted a new drilling permit sought by Bandon Oil and Gas for a site about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana and 115 feet below the ocean’s surface. It’s south of Rockefeller State Wildlife Refuge and Game Preserve, far to the west of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that triggered the BP spill.

Chris Bowers put it mildly when he described the Obama administration’s action here as “difficult to fathom.” The president gave a speech on the economy today and talked about investing in alternative energy, but like all my parenting books say, actions speak louder than words. The greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history is unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, and BP doesn’t know how to stop it, but it’s business as usual at the Minerals Management Service. Nor is today’s permit approval an isolated case:

In the days since President Obama announced a moratorium on permits for drilling new offshore oil wells and a halt to a controversial type of environmental waiver that was given to the Deepwater Horizon rig, at least seven new permits for various types of drilling and five environmental waivers have been granted, according to records.

The records also indicate that since the April 20 explosion on the rig, federal regulators have granted at least 19 environmental waivers for gulf drilling projects and at least 17 drilling permits, most of which were for types of work like that on the Deepwater Horizon shortly before it exploded, pouring a ceaseless current of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Words fail me, so you’ll have to share your thoughts in this thread.

UPDATE: In 1979 it took nine months to stop oil gushing from a shallow well in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Time for Congress to get serious about clean energy

(Wish I felt optimistic that Congress will get serious about clean energy. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Let's tell Congress it’s time to get serious about ending our fossil fuel addiction and act now to pass an energy bill that will set the US on a path to a clean energy future.

Progress on a federal climate and clean energy bill is again being bogged down in political maneuvering.  On Monday, April 26, instead of the expected and long-awaited release of the bipartisan climate and clean energy bill, advocates of clean energy were greeted with news that Senator Graham, the Republican co-author of the bill, might pull his support from the legislation if immigration reform is given priority over climate on this year's Senate calendar. There is still hope that the three Senators who drafted the legislation will figure out a way to move forward—which they did in one sense by sending their proposed legislation to the Environmental Protection Agency last week for an economic impact analysis. But time is running out.

More after the jump

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Obama having second thoughts on new offshore drilling?

A few weeks ago, President Barack Obama advocated expanding offshore oil drilling in a misguided attempt to reach out to Republicans on energy legislation. The president told a town-hall meeting audience on April 2, "It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced." Think Progress exposed the inaccuracies in the president’s comments at the time, and the April 20 explosion at British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig was a tragic reminder of how much can go wrong with offshore drilling. Eleven workers were killed in the accident, and the resulting oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico still has not been contained. If it hits the Gulf Coast, the environmental and economic damage will be immense.

Last week, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs insisted that the tragedy had not given the president second thoughts about offshore drilling:

Obama still believes that “we have to have a comprehensive solution to our energy problems,” and the spill did not open up new questions about his drilling plan, [Gibbs] said. […]

“We need the increased production. The president still continues to believe the great majority of that can be done safely, securely and without any harm to the environment,” he said.

However, presidential adviser David Axelrod announced on ABC’s Good Morning America program today that

there’s a moratorium on the expansion until the recent spill can be controlled and investigated.

“No additional drilling has been authorized and none will until we find out what happened here,” he said.

Mike Lillis is absolutely right:

For the White House, the timing of the spill couldn’t have been worse. If Obama had stuck with his guns in opposing new drilling, he’d be seen as a prophet in the wake of this week’s Gulf disaster. Instead, by trying to make concessions to Republicans – most of whom won’t support a climate bill in any event – he’s simply alienated his conservation-minded supporters to no tangible benefit.

Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, says that any climate change bill including more offshore drilling will be “dead on arrival” in Congress. Let’s hope that message will resonates with the president. I also hope the administration will follow through on promises to make BP pay the full cost of cleaning up the oil spill.

On a related note, Mike Soraghan reports in the New York Times that BP “joined with other oil companies last year to oppose stricter safety and environmental rules” for oil rigs. I’m not surprised, and I’m not optimistic that the current disaster will lead to significantly stronger regulations on existing rigs.

UPDATE: I posted the Sierra Club’s statement after the jump. It’s worth a read.

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I wish this were an April Fool's joke

As you probably heard yesterday, President Barack Obama announced plans to expand drilling for oil off the Atlantic coast of the U.S.. Not only that, he insulted environmental advocates and their "tired" arguments against drilling.

I have nothing profound to say about this decision, but when even a big Obama fan like Oliver Willis says the administration “Clearly Took Stupid Pills Today,” that ought to tell you something. Increasing our offshore extraction of oil won’t reduce our reliance on imports from the Middle East, and Obama knows it won’t. This is just a political ploy to win some votes in the Senate while making the president look like he holds the reasonable middle ground.

Once again, Obama makes a big concession to the corporate/Republican position at the beginning of the negotiating process, without gaining anything concrete in return. A good negotiator would make that kind of concession to close the deal, and only in exchange for something significant (like a hugely ambitious renewable electricity standard).

The Senate energy bill (let’s not even pretend it’s a “climate change” bill anymore) will probably allow more offshore drilling that the president announced, and that will probably be fine with the White House. Environmentalists will be asked to clap louder at “progress” or be grateful that Obama didn’t sell us out in a more egregious way.

I am tired of having to fight this kind of battle when the Democrats control Washington. It’s another reason I probably will never again give to Democratic committees at the levels I did from 2004 through 2007.

UPDATE: I recommend reading this post at EnviroKnow: “Dems More Trusted on Energy than Any Other Issue, Yet they Continue Pursuing Polluter-Friendly GOP Ideas.”

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