Energy & Environment

Standing with New Mexicans

The surge of massive forest fires has been too common in the West in recent years. Mismanaged, overgrown forests have contributed to the spread of wildfires. Otero County has taken a stand against irresponsible forest management in their county. Officials have worked to give their residents safer communities and healthier forests. They said that “enough is enough” when it comes to the federal government’s mismanagement of the forest around Cloudcroft.

In June, the Otero County Commission voted to create an emergency plan, allowing the county to begin thinning the forest for fire prevention. They created an 80,000-acre plan, which they submitted to USFS, that calls for responsible management to protect local watershed and prevent fires that have threatened Cloudcroft for many years. This level of forest management is exactly what the Otero County Commission was trying to accomplish with the emergency tree cutting on September 17th near Cloudcroft.

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EPA's fracking, Keystone intervention snubs science

Dramatics on Capitol Hill is nothing new or unexpected. But last week’s spectacle - in which Capitol Police arrested filmmaker Josh Fox for unlawful entry after disrupting a House Science Committee hearing - pans the camera on a very troublesome reality. It epitomizes the empty, theatrical tactics environmental groups are using to subvert legitimate dialogues over our energy future and the best interests of the American public.

Throughout the country, the “green” lobby is manipulating legalities, rhetoric, and melodrama to sideline science in pursuit of a political agenda. Take for example the Environmental Protection Agency’s contentious inquiry into possible ground water contamination in a small Wyoming town, which - despite holes in its own reporting and the fact that “fracking” has been used to safely develop wells since the late 1940s - has ignited a new debate in the baseless campaign against natural gas.

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Keystone: the pipeline to higher gas prices

The fight over the Keystone Pipeline began in earnest last spring, when James Hansen at NASA pointed out that heavily tapping the Canadian tarsands would mean it was “essentially game over” for the climate. Since planetary destruction is what even the dimmest analyst might describe as a less than optimal policy outcome, the oil industry and its allies in Congress have since done everything they can think of to change the subject.

First the pipeline became a jobs project - until the one study not funded by Transcanada showed it might kill as many jobs as it would create. Now even the pipeline company says permanent employees will number “in the hundreds.”

Next it became an energy security issue - until a look at refinery contracts made clear the oil was to be refined and shipped overseas.

Let me predict the next talking point right now: with gas prices rising, the pipeline will let Americans fill up for less.

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Nuclear power will propel U.S. forward

The last time a nuclear reactor was approved, the year was 1978. Jimmy Carter was president, the Bee Gees dominated the Billboard Top 100, Animal House debuted at the top of the box office, and a gallon of gas cost 63 cents. A new generation of reactors is long overdue.

On Wednesday, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu toured Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro, the first U.S. plant to win approval for the construction of nuclear reactors in more than three decades.

This is the first step towards what Republicans and many Democrats alike hope will mark the reemergence of nuclear power as a viable energy source. A majority of Americans agree. A 2011 national survey found that 71 percent of the public favors nuclear energy as one way to generate electricity. Eighty-four percent believe nuclear energy will play an important role in meeting U.S. electricity needs in the future.

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Don't raise taxes on American wind power

Despite the recent improvement in U.S. unemployment figures, it is clear that the thing Americans care about most right now is creating jobs and getting our economy rolling again.

Luckily, there is a way that lawmakers in Congress can do that right now. They need look no further than the wind turbines that dot our landscape in Illinois and all across the windy heartland to recognize that we can create jobs and encourage private investment by fostering stable tax policies in one of our economy’s few bright spots: wind energy.

In fact, one of the best ways of unlocking private capital, creating manufacturing jobs and putting Americans back to work is an extension to the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind. It’s a common sense solution to our shared economic and energy challenges, and one our representatives in Congress should support.

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Price at the pump

On a recent campaign swing through Orange County, Calif., the heartland of Republican politics, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich talked openly about $2-a-gallon gas prices at the pump. I don't know which planet the former Speaker of the House is living on, but local gas prices are more than twice this amount now.  

Sometimes it pays to be reflective. Twelve years ago, I wrote a piece for the Orange County Register urging then-presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush to name their running mates weeks before the 2000 Democratic and Republican nominating conventions.


"Energy Secretary Bill Richardson or HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo look good on paper, but they can't help Gore win in November," I wrote. "Imagine having to defend Richardson if gas prices still are hovering around $2 a gallon this fall."

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How to cut climate change in half

What will it take to get the U.S. to take climate change seriously? Climate change threatens the world with powerful and potentially very costly impacts, such as increasingly severe droughts and floods, the die-off of forests and damage to agriculture, as well as rising sea levels.  The U.S. is not exempt from these impacts.
 
The answer is that the U.S. can make progress even in a dysfunctional political climate, by focusing on reducing two local air pollutants, black carbon (soot) and ground-level ozone, alongwith hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), man-made chemicals used in refrigerators, air conditioners, and insulating foams. Indeed, recent science shows the U.S., with Mexico and other willing nations, can help lead a global effort to reduce these three warming agents and thereby cut the rate of global warming in half for the next three or four decades.

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Bringing solar manufacturing back

In his State of the Union address, President Obama proclaimed that he would not cede the solar industry to China through a lack of commitment. Unfair Chinese trading practices demand that he keep this pledge immediately or risk surrendering the industry to China.

The United States created the solar industry and its technological leadership ensured its development. Bell Labs’ researchers invented the first silicon solar photovoltaic device in 1954 and government researchers furthered industrial development. Despite the 2009 recession, the U.S. government invested $7.1 billion in solar R&D, compared to $1.32 billion from the E.U., and nothing from the rest of the world, including China. Yet today, China accounts for three-fifths of the world’s solar-panel production and exports 95 percent of its production, much of it to the United States.

Against this backdrop, an epic battle is now occurring. Seven U.S. manufacturing companies, the Coalition of American Solar Manufacturers (CASM), filed antidumping and countervailing duty complaints against China with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and Commerce Department. CASM has argued that imported, illegally subsidized Chinese solar cells and panels are destroying U.S. manufacturing jobs and injuring the U.S. industry. Almost immediately, Chinese exporters and some U.S.-based assemblers and installers challenged the U.S. manufacturers, arguing that reducing subsidized Chinese imports would reduce U.S. jobs, through higher consumer prices and dampened demand for solar panels. They have warned of a “trade war” and have telegraphed threats of retaliation. So far, preliminary rulings from the ITC and Commerce have favored the U.S. manufacturers.

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On ethanol, don’t bend to 'politics before science'

In our nation’s attempt to reduce dependence on foreign oil, we must be careful not to increase our reliance on politically-favored fuels that cause more problems than they solve. While this administration bulldozes forward with its agenda to increase the amount of ethanol in our gasoline, we should slow down before declaring high-ethanol gasoline the “fuel of the future.” Today the House Science Committee will mark up legislation that ensures, when it comes to decisions about our fuel, we get the science right.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that it would allow the use of gasoline with 15-percent ethanol, called E15, in vehicles manufactured since 2001. In issuing this waiver, the EPA relied on findings from a single Department of Energy test, rushing E15’s introduction into the marketplace.

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A price to be paid with over-regulation

For over 150 years, our nation's economy has thrived off of an efficient energy system that has provided for our basic needs. From the coal that powered the first steam engines to the petroleum that breathed life into automobiles, our forefathers have built on the technologies that have come from the demand of consumers and led to the innovations that we see today. Each generation's industry has evolved and the energy that fuels it has become cleaner and more effective. But this progress remained sustainable due to its ability to develop gradually and according to the demands of a free market.

Over the past three years, this responsible flow of progress and business development has come under attack by an administration that seeks total control over the private interests of our nation's small businesses and job creators. Through unprecedented power granted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Obama administration has sought to impose arbitrary guidelines on every entity that uses energy to create its products. This started gradually, with new mandates over carbon dioxide emissions, and now - three years later - has coalesced into a nightmare of complicated standards which have forced thousands of small businesses to devote time, money, and massive cuts to their production in order to comply with new regulations.


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