In the Pipeline: 8/18/11

Let the great experiment begin! Super Committee received over $64 million in special interest money Fox News (8/18/11) reports: Let the gridlock begin where it always does, with political donations…The bipartisan “super committee” created under the debt ceiling deal that is supposed to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings by the end of November got $64.6 million from special interests groups over the past decade, according to a new analysis by MapLight, a nonpartisan watchdog group that tracks the nexus of money and politics…Political action committees funded by the legal profession ($31.5 million), Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase ($11.2 million), and “Democratic/Liberal” groups ($9.6 million) topped the list here…PACs and employees in the health-care industry gave heavily, too — $9.3 million over the last decade…Who on the super committee got the most cash? The Democrats, with twice as much as the Republican members — $42.7 million in donations over the last decade, according to the analysis by MapLight…Topping the list is Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) — he received roughly $15.8 million in political donations from special interest PACs, largely due to his unsuccessful presidential bid in 2004, says MapLight. Following close behind is Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont) with $8.3 million. Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) received $5.9 million and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), got $5.7 million, says MapLight.

Obama must’ve read that book Hugo Chavez gave him. And, is this what Maxine Waters was talking about when she famously admitted she might “nationalize” oil companies? Wall Street Journal (8/18/11) reports: Exxon Mobil Corp. is fighting with the U.S. government to keep control of one of its biggest oil discoveries ever, in a showdown where billions of dollars hang in the balance for both sides…The massive Gulf of Mexico discovery contains an estimated one billion barrels of recoverable oil, the company says. The Interior Department, which regulates offshore drilling, says Exxon’s leases have expired and the company hasn’t met the requirements for an extension. Exxon has sued to retain the leases…The court battle is playing out at a time in which the Obama administration has made an issue of unused leases, which deprive the Treasury of valuable taxes. It also comes as regulators are being careful not to be seen as lax in their dealings with large energy companies in the wake of last year’s BP PLC spill…The stakes are high: Under federal law, the leases—and all the oil underneath—could revert to the government if Exxon doesn’t win in court…The loss of the leases would be an enormous black eye for Exxon. The company hadn’t previously disclosed the size of the discovery in what is called the Julia field until it was mentioned in the suit Exxon filed against the Interior Department last week in federal court in Lake Charles, La…The Texas behemoth faces the sobering prospect that it may have made the largest discovery ever in the Gulf of Mexico only to lose it. Tens of billions of dollars of oil could slip through its hands because it failed to follow federal rules for getting a lease extension while it moved forward with plans to get the oil out of the ground.

We don’t get this at all.  If the rule has positive consequences with respect to costs and benefits (as EPA has argued and will no doubt continue to argue), why would there be any need to “blunt the impact”?  I mean, who tries to blunt the impact of something good? Politico (8/17/11) reports: The Obama administration is promising to blunt the impact of its pending ozone standards by ensuring flexibility for industries, but it likely won’t have enough wiggle room to win over its fiercest critics…In an effort to refute industry’s claims that a tighter smog standard will put a damper on economic recovery, the White House and the EPA have repeatedly vowed to use flexibility allowed under the Clean Air Act when the rules are implemented. That would allow the administration to install a standard in line with the between 60 and 70 parts per billion that agency scientists have recommended — and appease environmental and public health groups — while giving officials the ability to point to the implementation plan as proof that it has maximized flexibility for industry…EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan has said in several recent statements that “in implementing this new standard, EPA will use the long-standing flexibility in the Clean Air Act to consider costs, jobs and the economy.” And a White House official said last month that President Barack Obama “is committed to using the full flexibility in the law to ensure that the implementation of a new standard does not impede our economic recovery.”…EPA’s ozone rule and a draft implementation plan have been under review by the White House since July 11, and some observers speculate that the final standard has been delayed in part while the implementation plan is fine-tuned.

Seriously, what could go wrong? The Gazette (8/17/11) reports: For the first time ever, more of the corn crop may go into gas tanks than into the stomachs of cattle and poultry destined for kitchen tables…The prediction drew little response last week when it was released by the USDA in its Crop Production and Supply/Demand Report for the 2011 crop season. The USDA kept its prediction for ethanol production demand for corn at 5.05 billion, but lowered demand projections for livestock feed by 100 million bushels to 5 billion bushels…That fuel now tops livestock as the primary user of corn struck at least one observer as noteworthy…“That’s a first-time-ever type of change,”  University of Missouri Extension economist Ron Plain said in a statement released by the university…“For forever,” Plain said, “ feed was the largest single use of corn.”…The news comes as criticism that pro-ethanol subsidies and policies are raising food prices globally seems to be reaching a crescendo.  Critics didn’t seem to latch onto the USDA’s market prediction, however…A spokesman for Iowa’s ethanol industry termed the USDA’s market prediction “a footnote.”…“Every credible study has clearly found the effects of ethanol policies is negligible on the price of corn,” remarked Monte Shaw, president of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association…The USDA Thursday lowered its soybean and corn harvest estimates for the 2011 crop significantly and said ethanol plans will consume more corn than livestock.

What? EDF supports energy? Nah…you’re watching a Washington parlor game. Fred Krupp continues to pretend he likes shale gas production in his “good cop/ bad cop” hunt for cash for his organization (letting nrdc be the bad cop this time). All he wants in his quest to federalize energy production is a little regulation Wall Street Journal (8/18/11) reports: If there’s one thing America doesn’t need right now, it’s more acrimony and gridlock. That’s where the debate over natural gas development in the U.S. has been heading—but it’s not too late to change direction…To be blunt, the natural gas industry has a credibility problem. Natural gas is a growing and increasingly significant part of our nation’s energy economy, but many Americans don’t believe that this resource can be tapped safely…In the past two years, one state and several municipalities have effectively banned (some permanently, others temporarily) the development of unconventional natural gas. Restoring trust will take time, strong oversight by government, and transparency and hard work by the industry. It won’t be easy, but it can be done. A new report by a Department of Energy advisory panel points to some crucial first steps that can help jump-start the process…The natural gas drilling technique of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has opened up vast deposits of gas trapped in shale rock formations—deposits that were previously too difficult or expensive to reach. One example is the Marcellus Shale, which covers a good portion of New York and Pennsylvania, states not previously known for their natural gas reserves…In 2000, shale gas accounted for 1% of America’s natural gas supply. Today, that figure is around 25% and climbing. From an environmental perspective, that should be good news, since natural gas burns cleaner than coal, emitting less greenhouse gas pollution during combustion and avoiding mercury, sulfur dioxide and other dangerous air pollutants that come from coal.

Do Iowans see the writing on the wall? Ethanol might be on the way out, but with the top republicans signing a wind blade at the Ames Straw Poll, it looks like they’ve found a new subsidy New York Times (8/18/11) reports:  In The New York Times on Thursday, John M. Broder writes about a blood sport that has become quite popular among the field of Republican presidential candidates: attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency. Yet the candidates recently found time to rally behind clean wind energy, a topic some voters identify with a somewhat more liberal agenda…At the Saturday straw poll in Iowa, the G.O.P. contenders Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and Thaddeus McCotter autographed a giant 130-foot wind turbine blade to show their support for Iowa’s burgeoning wind industry as a source of home-grown job creation…TPI Composites, based in Newton, Iowa, manufactured the blade and currently employs 700 workers at a former Maytag plant, according to its chief executive, Steve Lockard. The American Wind Energy Association, a trade association and lobbying group, sponsored the event on Saturday…It was one of about 30 such displays set up by organizations and political action committees on the Iowa State University campus…Michele Bachman, the top vote-getter in the straw poll, was not present at the signing, although according to Peter Kelley, the wind energy association’s vice president for public affairs, her staff members had conveyed her interest in attending…Texas is the leading state in installed wind capacity with 10,085 megawatts, while Iowa is second with 3,675 megawatts, accounting for almost 20 percent of the state’s electricity generation in the first quarter of 2011.

She loves me, she loves me not, she loves me…three new flowers are on the endangered species list, adding one more layer of green tape for Western energy states Fox News (8/18/11) reports: The recent placing of three Colorado wildflowers on the federal endangered and threatened species lists will make it harder to exploit untapped fuel resources in the Rocky Mountain State, a group representing the energy industry tells Fox News, an assertion the government denies…“What we’re seeing here is the federal government coming in and adding another layer of regulation,” says Kathleen Sgamma, director of government and public affairs at Western Energy Alliance. Regulators are “saying we don’t care about … what the states are doing and what industry and nonprofit groups are doing to protect those species.”… The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the Pagosa skyrocket as endangered. The other two flowers, the Parachute beardtongue and the DeBeque phacelia, are listed as threatened. The latter two grow only in northwestern Colorado, which is also home to the 200-square-mile Roan Plateau atop massive reserves of natural gas, as well as oil in the form of oil shale…“The listing of these plants won’t stop any oil and gas drilling,” maintains Gina Glenne, a Fish and Wildlife botanist. “When you have a project on federal lands where it may impact the plant, what we do is work to mitigate those impacts. That can involve moving a project some small distance but it doesn’t ever really stop a project, especially an oil and gas project where we know that those resources are needed.”

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