Energy & Environment

Alaska mine would threaten more jobs than it creates

Recently, Rick Manning of Americans for Limited Government used this space to reference the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska as an example of job-killing government regulation run amok. His analysis shows that he has been badly misled about this prospect and the tension that it puts on all reasonable mining in Alaska.

Before you write me off as some tree-hugging environmentalist, a few words about me. For 24 years, I was a Republican in the Alaska Legislature, devoted to creating jobs through the wise use of Alaska’s natural resources. I served multiple terms as Senate president, Senate majority leader and Resources Committee chairman. I made a living as a commercial pilot and guide, often flying mining-industry clients. I also own a small saw mill. I cut up trees; I don’t hug them. I know mining can do a lot of good things. But this particular project, by size, location and type of ore, totally defies reason and history.

Mr. Manning conveniently ignores the thousands of jobs that the mine would put at risk.


Catch shares: A dangerous weapon in 'war' on environment

Last week Bruce Babbitt, former Secretary of the Interior under the Clinton administration, called on President Obama to stand up to a Congress he described as bent on destroying our nation’s environment. Babbit went so far as to say Congress had “declared war on our land, water and natural resources.” Perhaps this is true. But while Babbitt was spot-on in decrying some federal initiatives, he also inexplicably approved of at least one that is environmentally destructive: catch shares, a widely unpopular fisheries management program that consolidates and industrializes our fisheries.

A means to essentially privatize fishing, catch shares divide up the fish in any given region, often granting fishing privileges to a handful of larger corporate interests while pushing out smaller-scale, more traditional fishermen. Since they award those operations that fish the fastest and hardest, they incentivize the use of larger-scale boats, more damaging gear, and wasteful fishing practices that hurt fish stocks and the habitats on which they depend.


Fighting both sides of the war

Say what you want about U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the man does not flinch when it comes time to sell the USDA agenda. Whether that agenda, which he will push at a meeting of the G20 agriculture ministers this month, is one that will adequately tackle an emerging food crisis remains an open question.

"I would say that there are many reasons that there are food shortages globally, but none of them have anything to do with American farmers and ranchers," argued Secretary Vilsack at a recent hearing defending US biofuels incentives. If you are dumbstruck by this statement, it may be for good reason: it’s just not true.

The reality of course is that we live in an interconnected world where US policies and the practices of the US agriculture industry help determine whether farmers from Kenya to Yemen eat or go hungry. And right now many of them go hungry.


The problems with small nuclear reactors

Nearly seven decades ago, nuclear power enthusiasts touted tiny nuclear reactors "the size of a typewriter" that could fuel homes and factories, delivering electricity "too cheap to meter." We'd drive nuclear-powered automobiles, wear tiny nuclear wrist radios and do our laundry in uranium-fueled washing machines.

Needless to say, such promises remained the fodder of science fiction. Nuclear power is largely unchanged from the generating technology first utilized in the 1960s. The economies of scale were too enormous for small reactors to work - even large ones were expensive. And then there was the matter of the highly radioactive waste dispersed over hundreds of millions of homes and cars.

Yet, the enthusiasts of small reactors are back, promoting "small modular reactors" (SMRs) which, they say, can solve the central economic problem of large reactors that each cost so much and take so long to build that it becomes a "bet the farm" risk. But this is hype and hope more than substance. Unfortunately, Congress and the administration are buying into it.


Smart energy choices are the key to the future

Americans love panaceas. We want thinner thighs in thirty days, a pill to cure baldness, an ultrasonic gizmo to double our mileage. Cheap gasoline isn’t guaranteed by the Constitution, but each time oil prices spike, politicians squirm as if it was.

Unfortunately, energy is an IQ test they tend to fail. For example, a recent bill introduced in the House of Representatives would require the Department of Defense to buy a $1 billion coal-to-liquids plant. If DOD is going to waterboard the climate, put Rumsfeld in charge.


Congress has declared war on the environment

Former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt delivered the following speech at the National Press Club on Wednesday.

It is now more than ten years since I left public office. I am returning to the public stage today because I believe that this Congress, in its assaults on our environment, has embarked on the most radical course in our history. Congress, led by the House of Representatives, has declared war on our land, water and natural resources. And it is time for those of us who support our conservation tradition to raise our voices on behalf of the American people. 

It is clear to me that the House of Representatives will not only block progress, but will continue to sustain an assault on our public lands and water. Therefore, it is imperative that President Obama take up the mantle of land and water conservation – something that he has not yet done in a significant way. President Obama and the Executive Branch are the best, and likely only, hope for meaningful progress on this critical issue.

So I am here today to call on the president to lead us in standing up to the radical agenda of the House of Representatives, and to replace their draconian agenda with a bold conservation vision.


Defense energy bill will save lives

Saving energy saves lives.

That is how Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the imperative for the Pentagon to reduce the number of fuel convoys headed into harm’s way in Afghanistan.

Congress must heed Mullen’s advice and move quickly to pass legislation that was introduced last year by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado. Their bill, the Department of Defense Energy Security Act, has been updated and will be reintroduced on June 8 by Senator Udall. 


No nukes: A government meltdown in Europe

On Monday, May 30th, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the coalition’s agreement for the total shutdown of all nuclear power plants in Germany until 2022. German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said the decision is definite and that there will be no clause for revision.

Is Germany finally making the world a better place? Or is it just the German "Angst" which becomes visible here?


Consumers dealing with consequences of inaction on energy

With the end of the school year approaching and warmer weather finally arriving, families hope to hit the road on summer vacation. This year, despite slight declines in gasoline prices in recent weeks, Americans will be paying more than a dollar more per gallon than they were last year.

Unfortunately, policymakers have failed to green light policies that could ease this burden and produce more American energy.


For Memorial Day: A Clean Energy Future For Our Military

Congress is debating the Defense Department authorization bill, the legislation that allocates the $700 billion needed to fund our military through 2012.

Wrapped deep in the legislation is an important issue we can all relate to - fuel costs. The DOD consumes 2 percent of the nation's fuel, and fuel costs are among the military's biggest expenses.

Regrettably, the issue of where and how the military gets its gas is lost amid more high-profile topics such as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result, dirty energy industry groups have quietly launched a sneak attack to shoot down current initiatives designed to help wean the military off fossil fuels and move it toward cleaner domestic fuels.