November 30, 2010

Beach Scopes: Lisa JacksonKickin’ It in Cancun This Week, Laments that Carbon “Pollution” Isn’t “Easy toPhotograph,” and Is Thus “Less Easy to Get People Riled Up About.” EnergyGuardian (11/30, subs.req’d) reports, “Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jacksonsuggested in a speech Monday that congressional opposition and voter apathy tocapping greenhouse gas emissions was the outcome of her agency’s 40 yearsuccess in regulating pollution. “We’ve gotten to the point now where we don’tsee the pollution as often as we did, and in some ways, that makes our job alittle bit harder. It’s pollution that’s less easy to photograph and less easyto get people riled up about.” It’s a line unlikely to inspire confidence atCancun, especially with lingering questions about whether Congress can musterenough votes to block EPA from regulating large source emitters in 2011.Jackson even suggested in a Newsweek interview she might be open to delayingthe regulations. “I’m not saying there’s no accommodation that can be made withrespect to time,” she said. Energy Secretary Steven Chu sought to steer theclimate debate away from greenhouse gas emissions all together, suggesting inhis own speech Monday that the real reason to act was that China could beat theUnited States in a Sputnik-like race for clean energy technology and possiblyunseat America’s economic superiority. To developing countries being asked tocut greenhouse gases, the race for economic superiority is a low priority.



Shallow Thinking: BOEMRE’sContinued Inaction in Executing Basic Responsibilities on Shallow Water PermitsReally Starting to Irk Both Rs and Ds in Congress.Houston Chronicle (11/29) reports, “Gulf State lawmakers onMonday pressed federal regulators to speed up approvals for new offshoredrilling projects amid what they said was an economically devastating slowdownin well permits. A dozen members of Congress made their case in a closed-doormeeting with Michael Bromwich, the head of the Bureau of Ocean EnergyManagement, Regulation and Enforcement. Although the Obama administration liftedits moratorium on deep-water drilling in October, the government has yet tosign off on any new offshore project that would have been blocked by the ban.And fewer shallow-water permits are being sought or approved by the oceanenergy bureau than before the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion triggered the oilspill in the Gulf of Mexico and a swath of new offshore drilling requirements.Bromwich has insisted his bureau is moving as “expeditiously” as possible tovet new drilling applications without compromising safety and has reassignedroughly 20 employees from other divisions of the ocean energy bureau to helpwith the permitting logjam. After a meeting with offshore drilling contractorson Nov. 22, Bromwich noted that his agency “has been in frequent communicationwith representatives from the oil and gas industry.” But Gulf Coast lawmakerssaid those overtures have fallen short and told Bromwich that he needs to do abetter job explaining the new rules to oil and gas producers.



That’s a Relief: Steven ChuSays Obama’s Freeze in Salaries for Federal Bureaucrats Won’t Affect theBillions He’s Spending to Prop Up Unreliable Energy.The Hill (11/29) reports, “Energy Secretary Steven Chu has a simplereason why President Obama’s proposed federal pay freeze would not hinder DOE’spush to develop next-wave energy technologies. Chu said Monday that DOE alreadyattracts talent that’s willing to take big pay cuts to work for the agency. “Interms of the ability to attract quality people to the DOE, surprisingly, anumber of people have been willing to take cuts in pay” by a factor of two orfour or even 10, Chu said in remarks at the National Press Club. “They feel itis that important.” He pointed to Arun Majumdar, who directs DOE’s AdvancedResearch Projects Agency — Energy, which is aimed to cultivatinghigh-risk, high-reward research into technologies that curb reliance on foreignenergy and lower greenhouse-gas emissions. Before coming to DOE a year ago,Majumdar was an engineering professor at the University of California-Berkeleyand associate laboratory director for energy and environment at LawrenceBerkeley National Laboratory (the lab Chu ran before coming to DOE). “It istough and you have to be, kind of, a little bit crazy and a whole lotpatriotic,” Chu said.



Here’s How You Know It’sTime to End the Ethanol Subsidies: When the Tea Party and Friends of the EarthGet Together on a Letter and Demand It.The Hill (11/29) reports, “A grab-bag of groups from across thepolitical spectrum are pushing Senate leaders to let a major ethanol tax breakexpire at year’s end. Friends of the Earth, FreedomWorks, Taxpayers for CommonSense and food industry trade groups made their case in a letter Monday toSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell(R-Ky.). The tax credit for ethanol blenders helps boost the market for thecorn-based fuel, but the groups call it wasteful and pointless. “Congress hasthe opportunity to end the $6 billion a year subsidy to gasoline refiners who blendcorn ethanol into gasoline. At a time of spiraling deficits, we do not believeCongress should continue subsidizing gasoline refiners for something that theyare already required to do by the Renewable Fuels Standard,” the letter states.The Renewable Fuels Standard is the federal program created in a 2005 energylaw and expanded in a 2007 energy bill that requires increasing volumes ofethanol and other renewable fuels in the nation’s gasoline supply. Experts like the Congressional Budget Officeand the Government Accountability Office have concluded that the subsidy is nolonger necessary, and leading economists agree that ending it would have littleimpact on ethanol production, prices or jobs,” the letter continues.



Mining of Phosphate HasHelped Florida Create Thousands of Jobs in Fertilizer Industry, Helped FarmersGrow Crops All Around the World – Which Is Precisely Why Sierra ClubWants It to Stop.Wall Street Journal (11/30) reports, “The phosphate mined formore than a century here in central Florida to make fertilizer has yieldedthousands of jobs and countless harvests around the world. But environmentalgroups are arguing in federal court that the cornucopia extracts too high aprice in lost wetlands, spoiled water supplies and ruined farmland. The SierraClub and local environmentalists have slammed the brakes on an 11,000-acre mineextension planned by industry giant Mosaic Co. after securing a courtinjunction in July—the first such ruling in a state that suppliesapproximately 70% of U.S. phosphate rock for fertilizer. Mosaic is appealingthe ruling. At the same time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to beginan environmental review early next year to determine the cumulative impact ofphosphate mining in this region—the first such study in Florida since1978. The hurdles are threatening jobs in a local economy that is strugglingto emerge from recession. Phosphate mining directly employs about 4,000 peoplein four Florida counties, generating an estimated 20% of the world’s phosphatefertilizer. In Hardee County, where Mosaic’s mine extension is located, theunemployment rate has more than doubled to 15% since 2007. On the main streetof Wauchula, the county seat, about half the store fronts are vacant. "Iwould hate to see anything happen that prohibits mining," said TerryAtchley, chairman of the county’s board of commissioners.



Clowns in NY LegislatureBad Enough in the Middle of the Day – Let ‘Em Vote on Things At Midnight,And They Pass Moratorium Bills Targeting Hydraulic Fracturing. Ithaca Journal (11/30) reports, “The Assembly approved atemporary moratorium on natural gas drilling Monday night, with the goal ofplacing a hold on hydraulic fracturing until May. The bill passed, 93-43,according to the unofficial tally. Assemblyman Robert Castelli, R-GoldensBridge, Westchester County, said the measure would help protect water qualityacross the state."Our environment should not be reducing the protection ofthe environment to the level of a political football," Castelli said.Though the moratorium was not on the agenda set by Paterson, AssemblywomanBarbara Lifton, D-Ithaca, said Sunday she was hopeful a vote would be taken onthe legislation. Because the bill was not on Paterson’s agenda, the Assemblyhad to gavel into a "regular" session in order to take up additionalitems, Lifton said."I’m pushing for a regular session so that we can bringboth the moratorium bill up and a stronger moratorium bill up," she said.Other lawmakers said the moratorium would hurt property owners in his district."There are a lot of small farmers, small landowners who are going to behurt by this," said Assemblyman James Bacalles, R-Corning, Steuben County.Actor Mark Ruffalo, a Sullivan County resident and an anti-drilling advocate,also released a statement through the Working Families Party, pushing for theAssembly to pass the bill and urging New Yorkers to sign a petition in favor ofthe moratorium.



Funny Thing About ShaleGas: The More of It We Produce, the More Rapid the Decline of Folks’ NaturalGas and Utility Bills – Even In Areas We Don’t Drill. Philadelphia Inquirer (11/29) reports, “Just in time for thewinter heating season, Philadelphia Gas Works announced Monday it will decreasenatural gas rates for the next three months, saving the average residentialheating customer about $14.69 per month. The municipal gas utility will lowerits residential gas-supply charge from $1.60 per hundred cubic feet to $1.50 onWednesday. The charge for commercial and institutional customers will also bereduced. The supply charge is adjusted quarterly to reflect changes in thewholesale market price of natural gas, which is depressed because of therecession and abundant supplies from new resources such as shale-gas. Basedupon current market projections, the company anticipates that its rates shouldremain stable through the spring.



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