Energy & Environment

Make the promise: Protect clean air for our kids

This week Congress is likely to take up a spending bill that would limit the EPA’s ability to enforce clean air standards that protect us from air pollution. At the same time, I’ll be joining the League of Women Voters in launching the Clean Air Promise campaign – an effort to bring the coordinated assault on the clean air act to the attention to parents, families, communities and our leaders and ask them to promise to protect clean air. 

I’m supporting this effort for my son Tommy and the hundreds of thousands of other kids across the country suffering through asthma attacks triggered by air pollution.


Stopping the shell game

What gets voters agitated when they talk about the federal budget? 

Sure, voices rise over "spending like drunken sailors," while at the next moment voters howl over potential cuts to a host of government programs, most notably Medicare. Still, get past those now predictable, first blush comments and what you'll hear really bothering American voters is the distinct notion they have been conned. There's a real sense that while they were worried about carbs versus calories, and Macs versus PCs, a fast one got pulled on the American people and they may be stuck with the mess.


Energy tax hikes would cut revenues

Proponents of raising taxes say the action is needed to raise more money to help government pay its bills. But sometimes tax increases actually reduce the amount of money government collects -- negating any justification for their existence.

A perfect example of this is the series of tax increases President Obama wants to impose on companies that produce oil and natural gas and that manufacture fuels and petrochemicals in the United States. These proposed tax increases would worsen our nation's deficit, increase energy costs, wipe out American jobs and increase our reliance of foreign oil. They should be rejected by Congress.

Louisiana State University economist Joseph Mason recently conducted a study for the American Energy Alliance that examined two of the energy tax increases President Obama is seeking -- repealing a domestic manufacturing tax deduction for oil and gas companies and placing restrictions on tax deductions such companies get for taxes they pay to foreign nations.


Bipartisan ethanol tax deal will help move nation forward

Over the last couple of months, there has been a lot of debate in Congress about the future of ethanol tax policy.

But what people often forget is that the ethanol industry has been suggesting reform for more than a year. We recognized that the industry has changed, and that the policy must change as well.

The blender’s tax credit has been instrumental in developing the ethanol industry, but the most important challenge our nation faces today in securing our energy independence is not the continuation of this incentive, but access to a fair and open marketplace.


Barrasso values big oil contributions over families' safety

This week, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is conducting a hearing on legislation to address the BP Gulf Oil Spill disaster and assess petroleum reserves off our coasts.

Unfortunately, the mark-up presents an opportunity for oil and gas industry allies to offer amendments that would actually weaken drilling protections. It seems Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) may be poised to do just that, and pay back his big oil campaign contributors.

Earlier this year, Sen. Barrasso voted to keep in place $21 billion in taxpayer handouts over 10 years to the oil and gas industry. That same week, he introduced S. 1027, legislation to rollback common sense reforms that protect land, water and air supplies, and recreational resources on public lands.


Open up access to our energy resources with new transmission

The Great Plains states – from North Dakota to Texas – have been called the Saudi Arabia of wind. As much electricity could be generated every year from wind in those states as the United States consumes as a whole. The trick is getting that enormous energy potential to market.

The electric power transmission network in this country was not designed to reach deep into the lightly populated regions of the Great Plains, yet that is where the best wind resource exists. Failing to build power lines to bring that energy to market would be like finding a new supergiant oil field in Kansas and not building a pipeline to it.


It’s time to stop the over-reach by Fannie and Freddie

Benjamin Franklin established the nation’s first special assessment district when he created the Union Fire Company of Philadelphia, a volunteer fire department. Today there are more than 37,000 special districts in the United States. Local governments use them to pay for everything from sewer systems to sidewalks to mosquito abatement — all in response to important community concerns.

In the last two years, 27 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing their local governments to use existing assessment authority (also called special improvement districts) to help homeowners and businesses finance energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements. These laws, commonly called Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) laws, were hailed by Scientific American as one of the top 20 ways to change the world.


National security, energy security, and environmental imperatives

News reports indicate that some Senators may seek to repeal a provision of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) during Thursday’s consideration of important legislation on Outer Continental Shelf energy production issues. Senators are right to be concerned about the potential misapplication of EISA Section 526, a provision that prohibits federal agencies from procuring alternative fuels with life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are greater than those for conventional petroleum sources.

We write today in support of amending, but not repealing, the EISA provision at issue. We urge Senators to “first, do no harm” in dealing with these critical energy and national security issues.


Keystone XL is a pipeline to disaster

It has been two weeks since the Exxon pipeline ruptured into the Yellowstone River and there's still no end in sight for Montanans as they work to clean up the crude oil contaminating their land. Pastureland has been ruined, livestock have been forced to move, and ranchers and residents have reported symptoms of hydrocarbon poisoning.

But despite these continuing examples of the harmful consequences of our addiction to oil, another oil pipeline company, TransCanada, is pushing to build the Keystone XL, a mega-pipeline that would dwarf Exxon's Silvertip and also pass underneath the iconic Yellowstone River.

Spanning nearly 2,000 miles from Alberta to Texas, the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would cross six states and funnel up to 900,000 barrels of toxic tar sands to the Gulf Coast each day. TransCanada's CEO, Russell Girling, claims that this pipeline would be "operated in the safest manner possible." But when you consider that TransCanada's existing Keystone I pipeline (which is much smaller than the proposed Keystone XL) was estimated to spill only once in its first year and has already spilled 12 times in less than 12 months, those claims aren't so reassuring.


BULB act sheds light on the politics of the new Republican Party

At a time when leaders on both sides of the aisle are engaged in an epic debate on how, or if, to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, on Tuesday, House GOP leadership decided that what Americans really needed was a vote on their ability to continue to use incandescent light bulbs. Seriously.

H.R. 2417, the so-called Better Use of Light Bulbs Act of 2011, was defeated 233-193 under House rules that required a supermajority to succeed. If it had prevailed, this bill would have repealed language that was passed with bipartisan support in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) that called for replacing the most energy consuming incandescent light bulbs with more energy efficient light bulbs over the course of several years.