Energy & Environment

Pull the plug on transmission subsidies

High energy prices have exacted a heavy toll on consumers battered by the recession. With gas prices near $4 per gallon, the average household’s monthly spending on fuel climbed 22 percent between October and March. More than 67 percent of Americans said high gas prices have caused them "financial hardship," according to a USA Today/Gallup poll.   

Consumer anxiety over surging energy costs provoked a political firestorm in Washington. Electricity prices could become the next flashpoint on Capitol Hill if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission burdens consumers with the costs of new electric facilities from which they receive little or no benefit. 

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Ignoring chemical safety will have toxic consequences

This week, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will examine fundamental problems with one of the most important programs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses to assess chemical safety – the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS).
 
Anyone who looks at the evidence, whether you are a state regulator, a public health official or a furniture maker, can see that the IRIS program is broken. Getting it right should be in the interest of us all.    

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Cuts to investments in energy efficiency fail the nation

The Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill is yet another glaring example of the flawed nature of the Republican budget. To try to meet their unrealistic goal of reducing the deficit solely through domestic non-defense discretionary spending cuts, Republicans are proposing to make crippling cuts to our national investment in improving energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources.

These cuts will only serve to make our nation more dependent on the coal, oil, and gas interests that own the Republican Party and more dependent on importing our energy from insecure foreign sources. Meanwhile, our global competitors recognize that this is an area in which there are many gains to be made and they are investing heavily to develop their own renewable resources and promote domestic economic and job growth.

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Policies that advocate for solar consumers will create jobs

Solar energy costs have declined 60 percent since 1995 – and they keep falling. It is in the best interest of American consumers that Congress keeps finding ways to speed the descent.
 
On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing on a few clean energy initiatives, including the 10 Million Solar Roofs Act of 2011. If passed, the bill would set in motion a number of policy measures to meet the ultimate goal of getting solar onto 10 million American homes and businesses by the year 2020.
 
The economic benefit of the bill is two-fold: first, it would push the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot program, which makes solar more competitive by financing cost-cutting, next-generation production technologies. Second, the bill would provide grants to communities to help them troubleshoot the solar permitting process, which can be a costly and inefficient barrier to solar adoption.

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Ethanol compromise: a model for bipartisan problem solving

With the federal debts reaching record levels and the debt ceiling fast approaching, Americans want their elected leaders to look beyond their differences and seek common ground for the common good.

That’s just what three influential senators have done in reaching a compromise solution to one of the nation’s most difficult and divisive issues: how to invest in American-made alternatives to imported oil at a time of tight federal budgeting.

Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), a critic of ethanol incentives, and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD), who hail from ethanol-producing states, have arrived at an agreement that should be acceptable to both sides of the biofuels debate.

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A wake-up call for better pipeline safety

It has been a bad 12 months for North America's oil pipeline system.

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the spill of one million gallons of tar sands oil into Michigan's Kalamazoo River, neither the cleanup of that waterway nor the improved pipeline safety regulations and oversight we expected and were promised are finished.

And now we have Exxon-Mobil's spill of more than 40,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River. Once again, it is another ugly wake-up call to Washington that better pipeline safety is needed.

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Time to start jobs, not spend reserves

In February, I wrote a column encouraging President Obama to end his moratorium on gulf drilling and restore the thousands of jobs that have been lost as a result. In May, I wrote another column pointing out that the president talks about a strong domestic energy policy, while his actions send the opposite message. The president has advocated energy policies that stifle our oil and gas production and that kill American jobs. Since he took office, gas prices have doubled. And, he hired an energy secretary who admits to wanting to “boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.”

Now, we see his energy policies take a turn for the worse. I was shocked to read that the president ordered the release of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The amount he called for was the largest in history: 30 million barrels in 30 days. The Reserve is intended to be used for a supply emergency. The White House is claiming that the disruption of Libya’s supply constitutes an emergency. 

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Not so worthy of fireworks: America's oil addiction

Many of us have just returned from long holiday weekend travels and celebrating our nation's independence with road trips to the beach or visits with friends and relatives.

Yet while we were off reveling in our country's freedom, every stop at every gas station along the way should have served as a stark reminder of another threat to our independence and future: Our addiction to oil.

Having recently retired from the U.S. Navy after 20 years in the SEAL Teams, I have seen firsthand the tremendous resources our country dedicates to protecting oil infrastructure, both onshore and in the sea lanes used by oil tankers.

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Time for responsible forest management

Fires of unprecedented size and severity continue to plague the west. For residents of New Mexico, this has already been a difficult and expensive summer, marked by evacuations, forest closures, and even loss of property and homes.  This year, 876 individual fires have burnt a total of over 652,800 acres in New Mexico alone.  On the state’s western border, the largest fire in Arizona history has now crossed into New Mexico, forcing evacuations and costing millions.  Fires have burned in the Organ Mountains at the southern end of the state, temporarily forced the closure of the world-famous Carlsbad Caverns in eastern New Mexico, and led to evacuations of Los Alamos National Labs to the north.  Even where fires aren’t burning, forest use is restricted or completely closed. 

The impacts on local communities are immense, as tourism and recreation are primary sources of income for the area. Tourism is likely to drop significantly in Lincoln County this summer if the forest remains closed, dramatically affecting local jobs and paychecks.

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Cost of EPA rules will be extraordinarily high

As our nation continues to struggle to regain its economic footing, we need policies that energize job growth. It is no surprise that a number of states are challenging numerous recent regulations coming out of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has been trying to usurp states’ rights to control the air permitting process for new industrial and power projects. Texas is one of several states that is rightfully fighting this and other overreaching EPA actions in the courts. The uncertainty caused by the EPA’s excessive regulatory behavior has resulted in construction delays, scaled-back projects and even the termination of some projects throughout the nation. Not only does this reduce manufacturing growth and the supply of energy, but it also destroys jobs. 

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