Energy & Environment

Fix the broken biofuels mandate

It’s time to face facts: the biofuels mandate Congress established in 2005 is creating too much bad biofuel and not enough good biofuel.

This year, that mandate requires American refiners to use 13.8 billion gallons of corn ethanol – more than they can actually blend into their gasoline.

By contrast, fuel makers are expected to generate only a little more than 5 million gallons of non-food-based biofuels that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many doubt whether the industry can hit this target.


Renewable fuels: Due for a reality check

A growing chorus of congressional voices are calling for revisions to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Proposals by Rep. Goodlatte (R-Va.) to limit or repeal the standard have been joined by bills from Sens. Wicker (R-Miss.) and Vitter (R-La.) and Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) that would cap the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline at ten percent.

These efforts come on the heels of pleas from 10 governors, nearly 200 members of Congress and diverse businesses groups from around the country calling for administrative waivers of ethanol requirements. However, these appeals have been largely denied by the EPA, which is holding to a strict interpretation of the stringent and expansive RFS mandate that Congress enacted in the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007.


US politicians should reject Keystone pipeline

As a Canadian energy and climate economist, I have first-hand experience with the magician-like techniques of the Canadian government and petroleum industry as they try to double the output of our highly polluting tar sands. Politicians in Washington should be wary, especially if they are sincere in wanting to spare us and our children from an increasing barrage of Katrinas, Sandys and droughts.
Magicians use slight-of-hand to distract us from what they are really doing. The fossil fuel industry and its allies have spent a lot of money to bombard us with messages about the jobs and tax benefits of increasing carbon pollution via this or that fossil fuel project. Count how many times they explain how this carbon pollution is consistent with what scientists say and politicians promise in terms of avoiding devastating climate change. Of course, they don’t explain. That is the art of deception on which magic is based: to get you looking the wrong way.


Challenges for Ernest Moniz at Energy Department

As ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power I have worked closely with the Department of Energy (DOE) on issues of energy policy, telecommunications, consumer protection, food and commerce. On Monday, President Obama nominated MIT physicist Ernest Moniz to head the Department of Energy.


Keystone pipeline should be a no-brainer

A project with bipartisan support that would create more than 15,000 jobs and reduce our dependence on oil from unstable countries may sound too good to be true, but it’s not. According to a recent poll conducted by Fox News, 70 percent of Americans say they support building the Keystone XL pipeline — including 57 percent of Democrats. Despite administration delays, last week, the State Department released its review of the Keystone XL project. The review raised no major objections to the pipeline and said any of the alternative options to get oil from Canada could be more harmful to the environment than the pipeline.


Some advice for EPA nominee Gina McCarthy

Being nominated as administrator of the EPA is quite an achievement for Gina McCarthy, and in all of the pomp and circumstance surrounding this appointment, I thought I would try to give a few words of advice to the new administrator as she takes over at a critical time in our nation’s history as it relates to the environment. 
- Remember who you work for: the taxpayers – including businesses, which are too often demonized. My understanding has always been that EPA’s goal is ensuring regulatory compliance. However, I’m concerned that the primary method of ensuring compliance has been through enforcement, rather than compliance assistance.


Repealing oil industry tax subsidies would be good for taxpayers

Former Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Miss.) served up the usual field-tested oil industry talking points last week. The Hill readers may have been interested to know Gov. Barbour, the “B” in BGR Group, now counts Chevron as a client. In his defense, he is not alone. Walking lock-step with the American Petroleum Institute is common among politicos, past and present, looking for any conversation-stopper whenever the issue of the industry’s darling treatment by Washington comes up.


Weather satellites: A critical piece of our nation's infrastructure

One of the worst winter storms in recent memory just pummeled the Northeast. The blizzard left parts of New England buried under as much as three feet of snow. Hurricane-force winds knocked out power for hundreds of thousands, and substantial snowfalls extended from New Jersey to Maine.

Fortunately, officials and businesses in the region knew the storm was coming and were able to prepare. Blizzard warnings were issued. Commuter bus and rail services were suspended. Flights were rerouted or cancelled. Parking on major thoroughfares was prohibited to make room for plows.


President should embrace North America's energy resources

In his State of the Union address this week, the president focused his speech on the need to spur economic growth and boost America’s middle class. Included in his proposal was the need to make “America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing” and to take “control of our energy future.” While these are worthy goals, the president failed to outline the necessary steps to achieve them. Absent from the president’s speech were two powerful engines of growth – the Keystone XL pipeline and the development of America’s abundant coal reserves. Rather than harness the potential of the America’s rich energy resources, the president sadly continues to block these important opportunities to create jobs and advance our energy security. The administration’s "all-of-the-above but nothing-from-below" energy policy is harming the middle class.


Drinking the 'fracking' Kool-Aid in Colorado

As a mother of three I am always concerned about my children’s health. Like most moms, I don’t want my kids drinking too much sugary soda or eating things that are bad for them. That’s why when I see our Governor making a display in the national media about drinking hydraulic fracturing fluid; I scratch my head a little bit.

It turns out that the fracking fluid that our governor is guzzling is actually a glycol-based product from the oil company, Halliburton, not the typical toxic concoction of non-disclosed chemicals, sometimes including benzene and diesel, that is most frequently used in hydraulic fracturing operations for oil and natural gas drilling. He failed to mention this when he appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources at a February 12th hearing titled “Opportunities and Challenges for Natural Gas.”