Energy & Environment

America needs to cut its dependence on oil


The transportation fuels we choose to use are jeopardizing America’s future, and we need to change our ways.

The two of us— a retired four-star Army general and a retired Navy vice-admiral —serve with a group of our nation’s most senior retired military leaders who feel that it is a national security imperative that the United States cut our petroleum use by 30 percent.  Not at some vague point in the future, but within a decade.

We serve on CNA’s Military Advisory Board, made up of 13 former high-ranking military officers who have served this nation in uniform collectively for more than 400 years.  We have spent decades protecting the links between our country’s security and our energy posture. A report we are presenting on Capitol Hill today (Nov. 2), Ensuring America's Freedom of Movement: A National Security Imperative to Reduce U.S. Oil Dependence, focuses on an increasingly troubling aspect of our energy posture: our heavy reliance on oil.


Read More...

Why we need to protect the Land and Water Conservation Fund

As Californians, we are fortunate to enjoy some of the most breathtaking landscapes and pristine wilderness in the country, from Muir Woods in the north of our state to the Santa Monica Mountains in the south.  The continued preservation of these and many other sites of great natural beauty across California and the United States is thanks to wise investments made through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). 

Funded by royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on federal lands, the LWCF provides matching grants to states and local governments for the acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation areas and facilities without using a penny of tax dollars.  These grants are also an investment in our economy.  Outdoor recreation contributed $46 billion, including $28.1 million in retail sales and services, to California’s economy this year, and this economic activity supports approximately 408,000 jobs throughout the state.

Read More...

EPA thorough on clean air

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) analysis of the benefits and costs of the Clean Air Act is one of the most thorough and thoroughly peer-reviewed cost benefit analyses ever carried out by an institution -- governmental, private, or academic. Margo Thorning’s attempt to discredit it in her Monday blog post is way off base.
 
Thorning is vice president of the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF), whose board consists of representatives of industries who have opposed clean air standards, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Electric Power Research Institute.
 
EPA estimates that by 2020, the Clean Air Act will bring almost $2 trillion in health and environmental gains, with increased life expectancy accounting for the lion’s share of benefits. But Thorning argues that these benefits are meaningless because they are not counted in gross domestic product (GDP), i.e., they are not actual goods or services exchanged in the market. The fundamental problem with this argument is that confuses GDP with well-being.


Read More...

Tar sands pipeline will comfort our enemies

As the military’s senior logistician in Iraq in 2006 and 2007, I saw the impact of our oil addition in the Iraq combat zone.  Our appetite for fuel wastes billions of taxpayer dollars, transfers $1 billion daily in our wealth to the Middle East, and puts our soldiers at risk. The fuel trucks we depend upon provide hundreds of convenient rolling targets for our enemy.  My experiences in Iraq convinced me that the greatest threat to our security is our over-reliance on oil and that Americans must immediately take steps to cut our petro-addiction before it’s too late.

The Keystone XL pipeline doesn’t help.  This pipeline would move dirty oil from Canada to refineries in Texas and would set back our renewable energy efforts for at least two decades, much to our enemies’ delight.  It would ensure we maintain our oil addiction and delay making the tough decisions regarding energy production, management and conservation that we need to start making today. 


Transcanada, the company that would own the pipeline, makes various claims about the pipeline’s supposed security benefits.   It claims the pipeline will reduce dependence on Mideast oil, that tar sands will feed a growing US demand, and that it will provide a supply cushion in times of natural or man-made disasters. None of these claims holds up. Transcanada says the project will supply roughly half of the amount of oil the US imports from the Middle East and Venezuela – but conveniently leaves out a crucial detail:  This tar sands oil will not reduce imports from those nations.


Read More...

EPA’s proposed power-sector air rules will weaken American manufacturing

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed two new air quality rules that pose substantial threats to both employment and the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers.  The first is the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) that would cap key emissions crossing state lines and the second is the Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology Rule (MACT) that would set absolute limits in mercury and other chemical emissions.  As designed, the Utility MACT would be the most expensive direct rule in EPA history.  Indeed, the EPA itself has estimated it would impose costs of about $11 billion a year on the U.S. economy, though third-party estimates of compliance costs are considerably higher.

For example, a recent analysis by National Economic Research Associates (NERA) finds that complying with the proposed standards would cost power companies close to $18 billion per year for the next 20 years.  Some coal-fired plants would be so expensive to retrofit they would simply be shut down.  The NERA study also projects that about 48 gigawatts of coal generation would be retired over the next five years, representing a 13 percent decline. 

Read More...

The high price of EPA regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) faced scrutiny on Capitol Hill again this week over the high costs of its record number of environmental regulations.  During a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee, the agency’s air chief denied consequences of the Clean Air Act on jobs and the economy and argued that her agency’s rules relating to automobiles and fuel economy actually creates jobs and support small businesses.

These claims echo those of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who testified earlier this summer before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and cited specious economic benefits of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

An EPA report “The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020” states that the economic value of the Act’s air quality improvements will “reach almost $2 trillion for the year, a value which vastly exceeds the cost of efforts to comply with the requirements of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.” The EPA report goes on to state that “Even if one were to adopt the extreme assumption that air pollution has no effect on premature mortality–or that avoiding such effects has no value—the benefits of reduced non-fatal health effects and visibility improvements alone are more than twice the total cost of compliance with 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment requirements.”

Read More...

The U.S. needs a proactive approach to wildfire

This year’s wildfire season has set records for being one of the most catastrophic. If it is setting a precedent for what is to come, we’re all in trouble.
 
Texas is having the worst fire season on record. Since last November, more than 7,600 homes and other buildings and more than 3.8 million acres have been destroyed, which is half a million more acres than burned total in the U.S. last year. And Texans aren’t alone in their suffering, as 2011 has seen almost 8.4 million acres burn across the U.S. Over the past 20 years, the area in the West seared by fire has been six times greater than in the two preceding decades.
 
Now is the time, with the end of wildfire season within sight and with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees submitting their FY12 recommendations last week, to focus on how devastation like this can be avoided in the future. These fires have national economic consequences and to prevent wildfires, we as a nation must invest in forest health and in strategies to decrease the risk of future fires. We need a comprehensive approach to managing forests, including sufficiently funding all aspects of wildfires: firefighting and preventative measures.

Read More...

The US needs a proactive approach to wildfire

This year’s wildfire season has set records for being one of the most catastrophic. If it is setting a precedent for what is to come, we’re all in trouble.
 
Texas is having the worst fire season on record. Since last November, more than 7,600 homes and other buildings and more than 3.8 million acres have been destroyed, which is half a million more acres than burned total in the U.S. last year. And Texans aren’t alone in their suffering, as 2011 has seen almost 8.4 million acres burn across the U.S. Over the past 20 years, the area in the West seared by fire has been six times greater than in the two preceding decades.
 
Now is the time, with the end of wildfire season within sight and with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees submitting their FY12 recommendations last week, to focus on how devastation like this can be avoided in the future. These fires have national economic consequences and to prevent wildfires, we as a nation must invest in forest health and in strategies to decrease the risk of future fires. We need a comprehensive approach to managing forests, including sufficiently funding all aspects of wildfires: firefighting and preventative measures.

Read More...

End subsidies to fossil fuel companies

As debate rages in Washington over how to cut the deficit there are growing calls for Congress to end handouts to fossil fuel companies. Last week, we joined leaders of 50 other national and state organizations in sending a letter to the Super Committee calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies. We have now been joined by 38 Members of the House of Representatives all of who have sent a similar letter to the committee. The message from both civil society and these Members of Congress could not be more clear -- eliminating these wasteful subsidies could reduce the national debt by $122 billion over ten years while bettering the environment and public health.
 
The Committee should start by eliminating all the subsidies in the federal tax code totaling over $47 billion for fossil fuel companies that the President has targeted for elimination. Eliminating the tax credit for refineries seeking to process dirty tar sands oil could save an additional $1.3 billion.
 
Another example of a completely unnecessary giveaway to the fossil fuel industry is royalty-free leases on public lands. There is simply no excuse for our government to give away public resources for free, especially when private companies are making billions of dollars in profits off of them. Ending royalty-free oil and gas leases would save taxpayers $9.5 billion over ten years.

Read More...

Why trashing the EPA won't work in the 2012 presidential election

Every election has its villain, typically a movement, person or institution that becomes a whipping post for politicians eager to energize political campaign contributors or voters … and sometimes both.

But in the increasingly polarized world of American politics, the same target for opprobrium that works so well in the early going of a presidential season hard-core party regulars can backfire spectacularly as election day draws nearer.  This happens because candidates must reach beyond their base to appeal to independents and members of the other party who can be persuaded to switch sides.

Our polling indicates that one such “double-edge sword” issue already has surfaced in the 2012 election.   While some presidential candidates are attacking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and generally anything that is “green,” it is increasingly apparent that there is a huge divide among voters that will sharply limit the effectiveness of this tactic.

Read More...

Pages