In The Pipeline 8/9/11

For those of you scoring at home, Mitch used to be chief of staff to Senator McConnell and once upon a time ran the NRSC.  So maybe we might get some sort of pushback against the Obama Administration’s attempts to make sure that:  1) people have to pay more (a lot more) for cars; 2) automobile fleet turnover is consequently retarded (delaying all the environmental benefits that come with turnover; and 3) more people die in highway crashes than would have otherwise E&E News (8/9/11) reports: The nation’s automakers today announced that Recording Industry Association of America head Mitch Bainwol will be named president and CEO of their chief lobbying group…Bainwol, who has led the RIAA since 2003, will head up the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers effective Sept. 1. Before becoming a celebrated lobbyist, Bainwol worked as a budget analyst for the Office of Management and Budget and served as chief of staff to two Republican senators during a 25-year federal career.”It’s a great privilege to join the auto industry at such a dynamic time in its rich history,” Bainwol said in a statement. “From fuel efficiency to safety, the industry’s innovation is nothing short of remarkable. Americans love cars and just as importantly, understand that the economic destiny of our country is linked to the success of this sector.”Bainwol replaces Dave McCurdy, who stepped down in December to take a post with the American Gas Association…Bainwol comes on just after the industry reached a deal with the White House on fuel economy standards that will require a fleetwide 54.5 mpg standard by 2025. The industry must still deal with the fine details of the rule. The group could also be facing new safety and alternative fuel regulations, plus continuing economic pressures as automakers battle back from bankruptcy…The auto alliance represents 12 of the world’s largest auto manufacturers, including the Detroit Three and Toyota Motor Corp.

And now, for my impersonation of President Obama “Folks, we can all agree that what we need to win the future are unicorns for transportation.” The Hill (8/9/11) reports: President Obama will unveil the first-ever federal fuel efficiency standards Tuesday for a range of heavy-duty trucks, a move the White House is casting as a key part of its plan to cut foreign oil imports and slash harmful air pollution…The planned announcement comes amid growing economic uncertainty and increasing jitters on Wall Street. Obama is expected to argue that the standards will result in major benefits to the ailing economy… The standards mark the latest effort by the Obama administration to ratchet up vehicle fuel-economy rules. Late last month, Obama announced a plan to set an average standard of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 for cars and light-duty trucks. The standard builds on rules finalized last year for model year 2012-2016 cars and light-duty trucks…Obama will travel to Interstate Moving Services in Springfield, Va., Tuesday to unveil the efficiency standards. He’ll be joined by officials from truck manufacturers, industry groups and environmental groups who have signed off on the deal, according to a senior administration official…Similar to how previous fuel-efficiency rules were made, the Obama administration worked closely with industry groups to develop the heavy-duty truck standards. Navistar, Volvo, Chrysler, Conway and others all support the standards, the official said.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Monday that his problem with allowing energy development to occur in Alaska is that there is no infrastructure, which of course, his government won’t let Americans go to work building.  He also supports a thriving American economy and getting rid of federal programs that don’t work.  How, exactly, does Secretary Salazar sleep at night? Anchorage Daily News (8/8/11) reports: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar came to Anchorage on Monday and said the Obama administration supports more oil drilling in Alaska, potentially including offshore Arctic development… Salazar joined Alaska Sen. Mark Begich and Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed for a meeting with Alaska business people and said the president’s feeling toward Arctic offshore drilling is “Let’s take a look at what’s up there and see what it is we can develop.”…But any Arctic oil development must be done carefully, he said. Salazar said the Arctic lacks needed infrastructure for responding to potential offshore oil spills and cited painful lessons from the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year…”Not the mightiest companies with multibillion-dollar pockets were able to do what needed to be done in a timely basis, and the representations of preparation simply turned out not to be true from the oil companies that had a legal obligation to shut down that kind of an oil spill. …,” Salazar told Alaska reporters. “When you look at the Arctic itself, we recognize that there are different realities — the ocean is a much shallower ocean, conditions are very different than we had in the Gulf of Mexico. (But) there are challenges that are unique to the Arctic.”…Salazar said a step toward a solution is “having an agency within the United States government and Interior, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Regulation, that can in fact do its job.” The agency is the successor to the Minerals Management Service, which was discredited after the Gulf spill.

No good swindlers want more of your money to build a second rat hole in California. The best part of the story? Obama’s nomination for Commerce Secretary is their CEO CNET (8/9/11) reports: BrightSource Energy has proposed a second, utility-scale solar power project in California, offering a changed plant design in an effort to avoid environmental permitting problems…The Oakland, Calif.-based company today said it submitted an application to the California Energy Commission for two solar power plants able to generate 250 megawatts each in Inyo County, Calif. Called the Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System, the project would generate power by using a field of sun-tracking mirrors to create high-temperature steam that turns a standard electricity turbine…BrightSource’s Ivanpah solar power plant in Southern California is one of the few large-scale solar thermal projects to get through the regulatory process, get financing, and begin construction. That plant has been slowed by a number of environment-related concerns, including the amount of water used and the impact of construction on a endangered desert tortoise…With the Hidden Hills plants, which would take up 5.12 square miles, BrightSource said it has changed the design in an effort to address environmental issues. It hopes to have the plants online by the end of 2015, according to a company representative…The updated plant design has a taller tower–going to 750 feet from about 450 feet–which will allow the project developer to place heliostats closer together. The mirrors will be placed directly on poles, which means they can be placed into the ground without having to grade the ground underneath.

Even when we disagree with him (which is a lot), Andy Revkin is a very good guy and a thorough reporter.  He will no doubt get pounded by the “science is settled” crowd for this particular bit of heresy National Review Online (8/8/11) reports: Andrew Revkin, blogger for the New York Times, posts (emphasis mine): For more than a decade, I’ve been probing changes in Arctic climate and sea ice and their implications for the species that make up northern ecosystems and for human communities there…There are big changes afoot, with more to come should greenhouse gases continue to build unabated in the atmosphere. There will be impacts on human affairs in the Arctic, for worse and better, as we explored extensively in 2005 and I’ve followed here since…But even as I push for an energy quest that limits climate risk, I’m not worried about the resilience of Arctic ecosystems and not worried about the system tipping into an irreversibly slushy state on time scales relevant to today’s policy debates. This is one reason I don’t go for descriptions of the system being in a “death spiral.”…The main source of my Arctic comfort level — besides what I learned while camped with scientists on the North Pole sea ice — is the growing body of work on past variability of conditions in the Arctic. The latest evidence of substantial past ice variability comes in a study in the current issue of Science. The paper, combining evidence of driftwood accumulation and beach formation in northern Greenland with evidence of past sea-ice extent in parts of Canada, concludes that Arctic sea ice appears to have retreated far more in some spans since the end of the last ice age than it has in recent years…And here’s an excerpt from one of the reports Revkin is basing his analysis on:..Our studies show that there are great natural variations in the amount of Arctic sea ice. The bad news is that there is a clear connection between temperature and the amount of sea ice. And there is no doubt that continued global warming will lead to a reduction in the amount of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. The good news is that even with a reduction to less than 50% of the current amount of sea ice the ice will not reach a point of no return: a level where the ice no longer can regenerate itself even if the climate was to return to cooler temperatures. Finally, our studies show that the changes to a large degree are caused by the effect that temperature has on the prevailing wind systems. This has not been sufficiently taken into account when forecasting the imminent disappearance of the ice, as often portrayed in the media…Imagine that. The science wasn’t as settled as we were told.

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