In the Pipeline: 4/22/11

Happy Lenin’s Birthday…err Happy Earth Day! Also, this man only weighs the negative externalities without mentioning the benefits of energy Time(4/21/11) reports: It’s Earth Day today—the 41st one—and it comes at a time when we’ve all been made aware of the environmental cost of the energy we use.  The BP oil spill caused ecological damage that scientists will study for years, and the partial nuclear meltdown at Fukushima may render large parts of the surrounding area uninhabitable. Coal and other fossil fuels continue to blacken the sky and warm the climate, and even natural gas—seen as a greener bridge fuel—has experienced recent accidents, with a major well blowout occurring this week in Pennsylvania. Alternatives like solar and wind are growing, but there are even environmental and quality of life complaints about renewable power as well…In fact, the blood cost is another way to calculate the energy equation: blood per kilowatt. Mark Fulton, the managing director and global head of Climate Change Investment Research at DB Climate Change Advisors, introduced me to the concept at the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference earlier this month. When we evaluate different forms of energy, we shouldn’t only take into account the financial price or even just the environmental cost, but the damage to human health and well-being as well.

Obama directs his DOJ to investigate gas price gouging. What’s he going do when they discover Salazar and Bromwich are tops on the list? Wall Street Journal (4/21/11) reports: President Barack Obama Thursday shifted his focus back to an issue that is increasingly vexing consumers: Rising gas prices…At Mr. Obama’s request, the Justice Department announced Thursday that it has created a task force to investigate the oil and gas markets, a move some Democrats in Congress have advocated. “The attorney general is putting together a team whose job it is to root out any cases of fraud or manipulation in the oil markets that might affect gas prices, and that includes the role of traders and speculators,” Mr. Obama said during a town hall event at a renewable energy company in Nevada. “We’re going to make sure that nobody’s taking advantage of American consumers for their own short-term gains.”…The White House has been wringing its hands over rising pump prices in recent weeks, even as Mr. Obama was preoccupied by the budget battle with House Republicans. Mr. Obama’s approval ratings have dipped in tandem with consumers’ rising irritation at their increasing outlays for fuel. Higher gas prices and other commodities have been fueling inflation-on an annual basis, consumer prices were up 2.7% in March, the highest level since December 2009, the Labor Department said earlier this month.

Friend of the cause Steven Hayward highlights the fact that coal use is up and sulfur dioxide emission are down — eat your hearts out greenies The American (4/20/11) reports: Since it’s Earth Day this Friday, it’s worth having a look at one especially instructive energy-pollution linkage—in this case, the trend in the amount of coal used to generate electricity and in other industrial processes, and sulfur dioxide emissions from that use of coal…As the figure below shows, the amount of coal used in the United States has more than tripled since 1970 (up 225 percent); as mentioned here previously, we moved heavily to coal starting in the late 1970s as a means to discontinue using imported oil to generate electricity. But over this same time period, sulfur dioxide emissions from coal have declined by 54 percent. Moreover, the Environmental Protection Agency projects a further 50 percent decline in SO2 emissions from current levels over the next 25 years, as shown in the second figure below.

I’m from the government and I’m here to help…study finds that CFLs emit cancer causing chemicals when used Telegraph (4/20/11) reports: Their report advises that the bulbs should not be left on for extended periods, particularly near someone’s head, as they emit poisonous materials when switched on…Peter Braun, who carried out the tests at the Berlin’s Alab Laboratory, said: “For such carcinogenic substances it is important they are kept as far away as possible from the human environment.”…The bulbs are already widely used in the UK following EU direction to phase out traditional incandescent lighting by the end of this year…But the German scientists claimed that several carcinogenic chemicals and toxins were released when the environmentally-friendly compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) were switched on, including phenol, naphthalene and styrene.

Senator Murkowski reconnects with her supply side Washington Post (4/21/11) reports: With gasoline prices in many areas above $4 a gallon, energy concerns are once again making headlines. Prices have more than doubled since the start of 2009 and are projected to remain at excruciating levels for the foreseeable future…We know from experience that high energy prices harm American families and businesses. Aside from pain at the pump, it’s harder to balance budgets or even buy groceries when transportation costs soar. Many experts have concluded that if prices remain high, economic growth will languish. At stake is our fragile recovery from the recent recession…High energy prices therefore demand a strong policy response. For years, however, federal lawmakers have routinely ignored the supply side of the equation and the fact that — if we chose to — we could absolutely produce more oil here in America.

The market has spoken: Americans will not pay a premium for green New York Times (4/21/11) reports: When Clorox introduced Green Works, its environment-friendly cleaning line, in 2008, it secured an endorsement from the Sierra Club, a nationwide introduction at Wal-Mart, and it vowed that the products would “move natural cleaning into the mainstream.”.. Sales that year topped $100 million, and several other major consumer products companies came out with their own “green” cleaning supplies…But America’s eco-consciousness, it turns out, is fickle. As recession gripped the country, the consumer’s love affair with green products, from recycled toilet paper to organic foods to hybrid cars, faded like a bad infatuation. While farmers’ markets and Prius sales are humming along now, household product makers like Clorox just can’t seem to persuade mainstream customers to buy green again.

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