In the Pipeline: 5/20/11

HuffPo provides all the evidence for more domestic oil production, but then stops just short of admitting the benefits of affordable energy Huffington Post (5/20/11) reports: The price of oil eroded Americans’ spending power over the last several months, according to new post from the Commerce Department….As oil prices have shot up and gas prices at the pump have followed, consumers and businesses have been forced to pay more for fuel. The average household monthly motor fuel expenditure increased by more than 22 percent between October and March, the post by Commerce Department Chief Economist Mark Doms showed. Even though oil prices abruptly dropped earlier this month, crude has since pared some of its losses, and pump prices remain high, suggesting that fuel will continue to sap household finances… At this rate, the net amount of money the nation pays to other countries for oil is on track to reach about $3,000 per household in 2011, an increase of 25 percent from last year, the note said. This fuel trade deficit per household grew by two-thirds between October and March, and in the first quarter of the year, petroleum-related products made up nearly 60 percent of the total U.S. trade deficit, the note showed.

I almost feel sorry for Sen. McCaskill because she doesn’t understand her vote to make gas more expenseive will ignite the populist rage she is trying to channel Politico (5/20/11) reports: Sen. Claire McCaskill’s energy playbook for her 2012 reelection campaign is starting to sound a lot like a cut-and-paste job…On Tuesday, the Missouri Democrat led a futile Senate floor debate to repeal tax breaks from the five major oil companies. At the same time, her party’s main campaign arm issued a press release slamming “Big Oil Todd” — a reference to Todd Akin, the six-term Republican congressman who hours earlier formally declared his Senate candidacy against her… McCaskill used a similar line of attack when she first rode the populist wave to Washington in 2006. One of her most potent campaign ads slammed then-Sen. Jim Talent for voting to keep the oil industry’s subsidies alive despite what were then record profits….Environmentalists and Democrats made the same case last November in their unsuccessful bid to defeat Republican Roy Blunt, running “Big Oil Blunt” campaign commercials and even launching a spoof website…”It’s a page out of their playbook and it doesn’t matter,” Blunt, now the state’s junior senator, told POLITICO. “It didn’t matter if the oil companies had given you $2 million over the course of a long career, or $12,000, they still ran the same ad.”

Carry the one…EPA admits mistake on mercury proposal. Now, let’s admit our mistake and reign in the EPA New York Times (5/20/11) reports: After being taken to task by critics in the utility industry, U.S. EPA conceded yesterday that it made mathematical errors in newly proposed limits on mercury from coal-fired power plants… The Utility Air Regulatory Group, a coalition of power companies that often challenges new Clean Air Act rules, recently claimed that “egregious errors” by EPA led to estimates that the cleanest power plants are releasing 1,000 times less mercury than they actually are. The mercury limits are one of the key requirements of the proposed limits on toxic emissions from coal plants, which were proposed in March (Greenwire, March 16)…EPA did err when it calculated what the maximum achievable control technology (MACT) can achieve, but the mistakes aren’t as serious as was claimed, air chief Gina McCarthy said in a letter to the industry attorneys yesterday…Nudging the limit upward to correct the error would allow U.S. coal plants to release an extra 1,000 pounds of mercury per year — a small fraction of the 29 tons of mercury that the plants now release into the air. After the change, power plants will still need to trap 90 percent of the mercury that is naturally found in the coal they burn, the letter says.

Senator Richard Burr is asking for leadership on the energy debate; how’s this for some direction: lease more than 3% of OCS and more than 6% for onshore energy production New York Times (5/20/11) reports: As lawmakers weigh a range of options following the defeat in the Senate this week of highly partisan energy bills, many are looking to President Obama to help loosen political gridlock over energy policy or use his executive powers to spur new production… Votes this week on a measure from Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to slash oil industry tax breaks and a proposal by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to ramp up drilling and leasing failed to garner bipartisan support. Both bills were offered as the political parties seek an advantage on the vexing issue of skyrocketing gasoline prices…Now the question is, what comes next?…While some senators and House members are promising to keep pushing energy packages they say have a chance of passing, lawmakers of both parties said Obama needs to take a more active role in brokering a deal on energy policy…”It’s never been the Congress that provided the leadership. We’re two different political parties,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). “This is where we hash out the specifics. But we don’t have the leadership yet that says we have to get to this goal. I think when the president engages we’ll have an energy blueprint.”…Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden yesterday said that while he is hopeful lawmakers can also reach bipartisan agreements on energy bills, he’d like to see the president take unilateral steps as well.

If the West is dumb enough to mandate renewable energy the Chinese are smart enough to make it Wall Street Journal (5/20/11) reports: China will offer interest-rate subsidies to the renewable-energy and high-technology material sectors, Vice Minister of Finance Li Yong said Friday….Mr. Li said in a speech at a forum in Shanghai that the government will make comprehensive use of interest-rate subsidies as well implement other incentives to support new energy and new materials. He said it would do this as part of a rebalancing of the economy under the country’s 12th five-year plan, which extends through 2015…China, the world’s largest energy producer and user, has pledged to reduce pollution and cut the amount of carbon emissions per U.S. dollar of economic output by 40% to 45% by 2020 compared with 2005 levels….To that end, it aims to have 15% of its energy mix come from nonfossil fuels such as nuclear and renewable energy sources by 2020 from 8% at present…However the ambitious program has been criticized for poor planning as a significant part of wind-power generating capacity installed around the country has been left idle due to insufficient grid connection…China has been using subsidies to promote the use of wind and solar power as well as energy-efficient cars…But the use of subsidies has created friction with trading partners.


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