This week, I cast a vote in favor of a bipartisan deal to avert the worst consequences of the “fiscal cliff.” After months of tireless negotiating and frustrating brinksmanship, this proposal passed the House with 90 percent support from the House of Representatives’ Democratic caucus. It was undoubtedly an imperfect deal, one that I would make substantial changes to if the drafting was left solely to me. However, when faced with the bill before me, I believed – on balance – it was best for the country and my constituents to support the proposal, and live to fight for our causes and values another day.
Energy & Environment
As the year winds down, it’s a good time to look back at what was one of the biggest alarm stories of the year: the alleged health impact of the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA). Were the claims true, and what might we expect to happen in 2013?
In 2012, news headlines were awash with faulty claims about dangers lurking in food, cosmetics, cleaning products, and even cash register receipts — all allegedly posed by BPA. Green groups targeted their message to women, who were — and continue to be--barraged with one-sided stories suggesting that BPA containers pose a serious threat to our children.
A crisis is unfolding now in the nation’s heartland. The livelihoods of tens of thousands of farmers, shippers, towboat and barge operators, and the movement of more than $7 billion in critical commodities and exports are caught up in an economic emergency that will undoubtedly have national consequences. The summer’s severe drought combined with a deliberate reduction in Missouri River flows have left the Mississippi River, the nation’s waterborne superhighway, critically impaired, and an effective closure of the Mississippi to barge traffic may very well be upon us.
The Environmental Protection Agency just revised air pollution standards for particulate matter, the primary component of soot. The new rules are based on the best available science and it is encouraging to see the agency following the Clean Air Act, especially in the face of strong industry pressure to ignore science again.
The law is clear when it comes to the role science plays in setting new standards. The Clean Air Act requires air pollution standards to be based solely on the best available public health science. Other factors, such as costs, can be considered when the standards are implemented. But it is science that should determine what level of pollution is safe for humans.
One hundred and eleven homes burned to the ground in Queens, flooding in parts of Manhattan forced the financial markets and subways to close, and severe winds tore down much of the façade of a Chelsea apartment building.
These incidents are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the damage New York faced as a result of Hurricane Sandy – the latest reminder of the need for a national disaster mitigation strategy that will lessen the impact of the next storm in a cost-effective way.
A smart mitigation strategy – which includes efforts like effective floodplain management and reduced development in high-risk areas – is a holistic approach to protect people and make response less costly.
In a December 12 blog post, Ozzie Zehner makes a peculiar argument that has strangely become the rallying cry of the vocal few who are opposed to renewable energy: using more wind energy is bad because it keeps electricity prices low. On behalf of the wind industry, we plead guilty as charged.
Philosopher Simone Weil said that, “to be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul”. Take a moment to consider your roots and the place you call home. I suspect that, like me, your home represents a lot more to you than just the bricks and mortar of your house. Rather the place we identify as home probably has more to do with culture and background, friends and family, livelihood and daily habits and the landscape in which each of us live.
Like the 28 governors and numerous environmental groups currently scrambling to extend wind power subsidies, I long assumed that wind turbines and solar cells offset fossil fuel use. They probably don’t.
Solar and wind power advocates are fighting to renew clean energy subsidies, which expires at year’s end. They argue that these technologies are worth the investment because they offset fossil fuel dependence and carbon emissions. Indeed, that’s the conventional assumption of most energy researchers, government labs, and think tanks. However, there is an emerging problem with that assumption – there’s no evidence to back it up.
During the recent campaign, President Obama dismissed the idea of North American energy independence by 2020, saying “you can’t drill your way out of this.” He was wrong.
Increases in domestic shale gas and oil production, growth in renewable energy, and steady efficiency improvements in all sectors of the economy have put the country on an energy and economic path that few predicted possible. Our country is blessed with diverse and abundant domestic energy resources, but still confronts an array of energy challenges that will demand high-level attention in the years ahead. The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) launched the Strategic Energy Policy Initiative in 2011 to address these challenges.