Energy & Environment

Renewing America’s commitment to clean water

Nearly forty years ago, Republicans and Democrats passed the Clean Water Act to keep our river, lakes, streams and wetlands from becoming open sewers and garbage dumps that burned from a whirlpool of nasty chemicals.  Lawmakers understood clean water meant healthy people, a healthy economy and a healthy environment. 

Ultimately, they also understood that these factors ensured a stronger country. Protecting clean water wasn’t controversial – it was commonsense.

Americans still care about keeping their water safe. In a Gallup Poll released earlier this year, they listed clean water as their top environmental concern. Restoring the Clean Water Act is in keeping with the wisdom of decades past and the current needs of our country. Protecting our waters and wetlands also honors a longstanding commitment to future generations of Americans. It is time for the Administration to move forward and sustain that legacy by restoring longstanding Clean Water Act protections for the Nation’s wetlands, lakes and streams.


President Obama right to stand up to House GOP, Big Oil

The same House Republicans who drove the country to the brink of default last summer now want to hold American families hostage to the profits of Big Oil. President Obama is right to stand up to this special-interest pleading and insist on putting our families first.

Time is running out on payroll tax credits and unemployment benefit extensions set to expire at the end of the month. With unemployment at 8.6 percent, Congress must decide whether to do away with benefits that can help families stay afloat while giving our struggling economy a boost.

And yet, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says the only way he and his fellow House Republicans will extend these credits and benefits is if Obama agrees to fast-track a decision on the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Obama said Wednesday he won't accede to that legislative blackmail, because a rush to judgment on the tar sands pipeline could put the health and prosperity of Americans at risk while needlessly endangering our environment. The president has got it right.


Why the farm bill needs a robust energy title

Maintaining agricultural productivity in America is indispensable to our economic security, so a safety net for farmers is very important. But abundant affordable clean energy and a healthy economy that can once again create new jobs are also essential national priorities. Advancing renewable fuels and energy efficiency can help farmers, foresters and others in rural America make a sizeable contribution to the nation’s energy and economic security.

America’s agricultural producers want more than just a safety net, they want energy programs that create new markets for their products and new jobs. Rural America is where the need for new jobs is most acute. In the past year, rural communities have seen the unemployment rate continue to climb. The growth of renewable energy is needed to help reverse that trend. But commercializing innovative technologies cannot always be left to market forces. Supportive federal policies are needed to accelerate job creation.


American oil, gas production righting our economy’s ship

Only a few years ago, our nation was looking toward a future of dependence. Dependence on foreign energy supplies, imported technologies, and the hope that one day an economic miracle would land at our feet and revitalize our nation. Today, however, it seems as though our waiting could be over – and for good. America’s on- and offshore oil and gas reserves have presented a new opportunity for the United States’ energy supply, and alongside it, tens of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenues and economic activity.


Chemical “fear-mongerer” responds

The recent accusation that environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, are working to create a fear of chemicals in our environment  requires some clarification (Chemical fear mongering goes into overdrive, Congress Blog, Nov. 28).

Perhaps a grain of salt is in order, since that attack comes from Dr. Gilbert Ross, a physician who has been imprisoned for fraud and had his medical license revoked, a person who works for an organization funded by a roster of corporations with vested interests at stake.

Scientific findings on the terrible health effects of chemicals are indeed frightful, but to attack those who dare to talk about this science as ‘fear-mongerers’ is a classic case of shooting the messenger because the message is inconvenient to those who profit from these chemicals.


Weathering the challenges ahead for renewable energy

There’s a chill in the air that hints at the stormy weather ahead for renewable energy. After several years of success, the political winds have shifted and the water has grown choppy. We’re entering an election year when Americans are sincerely worried that our nation has lost its way in a world that looks increasingly unstable. In the resulting atmosphere of uncertainty, America’s rudderless energy policy stokes suspicion and fear.

What’s worse, our leaders seem incapable of pointing us in an inspiring direction. Despite polls that show widespread public support for renewable energy from both Democrats and Republicans, the industry has fallen victim to political gamesmanship and bi-partisan gridlock.
In some ways, the current environment feels a little bewildering because of the success we’ve had over the last few years. Whether through luck or design, the intersection of a few state RPSs and federal tax credits delivered a potent formula for demand that also facilitated large flows of capital across the value chain. A whiff of progressive optimism didn’t hurt either.


No funding, no trespassing

Before breaking for Thanksgiving, Congress voted to de-fund the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) as part of the FY2012 agriculture appropriations bill.  It is ironic that funding for a program that encourages landowners to make their property accessible to hunters and anglers would be eliminated just as millions of hunters nationwide prepared to hit the woods over the holiday weekend. And whether or not they hunt themselves, all Americans benefit from sportsmen’s dollars and the conservation investments provided by license sales and excise taxes, and therefore, the elimination of VPA-HIP deserves some attention.

The number one reason cited by hunters and anglers for forgoing the sports they love? Access – or rather lack of access – to quality fish and game habitat. Increasingly, sportsmen encounter “hunting prohibited” or “no trespassing” signs as they venture across the countryside. 

In response to this very real challenge, the sportsmen’s community developed VPA-HIP, a federal program intended to address the problem of diminished access by sportsmen and others by providing small incentives to landowners to provide public access to their lands for wildlife-dependent activities such as hunting and fishing.


Chemical fear mongering goes into overdrive

The debate on “reforming” the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has recently emerged before the U. S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Eagerly anticipated by a wide variety of environmental groups, whose common raison d'être is essentially a deeply held fear of chemicals in our environment, they are now chomping at the bit at the prospect of tightening our already restrictive chemical safety laws.
Now most of us would probably admit to an innate fear of something — snakes, heights, clowns, whatever. But over the years, well-funded environmental groups have relied upon our instinctual fears for our children’s safety in order to manipulate the public, the media, and legislators to react emotionally rather than objectively to unfounded theories of chemical threats.
Decades ago, such irrational fear of chemicals was not so widespread, due to a general lack of scientific knowledge. Over time, though, the scientific community has amassed a plethora of information on thousands of substances in commerce and common use. Today, the public’s fear of chemicals is no longer driven by a lack of information but rather by a surplus of misconceptions espoused by politically-motivated activists masquerading as public health advocates.


New report links costly extreme weather to climate change

Last week’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report reaffirming the link between a changing climate and a rise in extreme weather might have ideologues grumbling, but it comes as no surprise to business leaders. They’re already dealing with the effects of extreme weather—the kind scientists tell us will be ever more common as Earth’s climate continues heating up.

Extreme drought and flooding are already affecting companies that depend on steady streams of agricultural raw materials, from cotton to coffee beans to corn.

Some farmers’ insurance rates are climbing as a result, according to Climate Corporation CEO David Friedberg, whose company insures farmers across 24 states.


Inward foreign investment that can create high-wage U.S. jobs is an increasing necessity

At a time when our economy is struggling and millions of Americans are out of work, we should take advantage of any solid opportunity that will bring international investment and jobs into our economy. The recent news that two U.S. Senators from other states are opposing a U.S. Department of Energy loan, for a steel project that will create needed jobs in my home state of Michigan, demonstrates that we have entered into the season where election-year rhetoric is not serving the best interests of the United States.

Michigan’s economic challenges and the urgent need for new U. S. jobs are well known. The loan guarantee in question, to a Russian company named Severstal, is good news for Michigan and for the United States.  Severstal received the loan to retool and expand its automotive steel operations in Dearborn, Michigan, where it earlier purchased Rouge Steel Company, seven years ago in 2004.