Energy & Environment

A choice: Recovery or regulator?

A vote this week on an amendment to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions poses a clear question to Senators: Who is best able to drive the economic recovery, federal regulators or manufacturers and other private-sector employers?

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has proposed an amendment to prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. The amendment would block the federal agency’s attempt to extend an unprecedented level of regulatory control over vast sectors of the U.S. economy.

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Aftershock: An energy wake-up call

Although it’s still early, 2011 is shaping up to be the year of the energy aftershock. Japan’s 8.9 magnitude earthquake forced the shutdown of oil refining facilities and nuclear power plants. Turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East pose an oil supply risk. Markets are rattled.

And so as we rise each morning to headlines about oil prices, political turmoil and natural disasters, Americans once again are taking stock of the country’s energy policies. The news has alerted us to the risks we have come to accept with our energy supply – risks of supply disruption, commodity price spikes and safety.

 But the shock won’t last long. Eventually, prices will moderate. Power plant and drilling accidents will be forgotten. And as President Obama recently described it, we’ll “slip back into a trance” when it comes to energy reform.

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Rockefeller is wrong: Delay is denial

Energy policy has long been a political football—an unstable brew of subsidies, tax credits, and regulations that has all but destroyed a market based approach to our nation’s energy needs. Most recently, the Obama administration embarked on a push for green energy that is threatening the viability of traditional fuels such as coal and petroleum. New regulations thwart exploration and production while raising the costs of energy for consumers. 

Nowhere is this more evident than in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) push to enact new regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA is rushing in where Congress feared to tread, with oppressive new regulations that will have sweeping effects on businesses across the country. Senator Rockefeller (D-W.V.), torn between environmental interests and growing concerns over the costs of such regulations, has proposed a timeout for the EPA, stopping any regulations for two years. 

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More fat than you think in agricultural subsidies

The December tax cut deal showed that Democrats and Republicans can cooperate in giving out candy. Now they face the tougher challenge of cooperating to pay the mortgage on the candy store. Republicans don’t want to raise any taxes. Democrats don’t want to admit that mandatory spending is on an unsustainable path. Few members of Congress will say it yet, but leaders from both parties who have studied the budget know that both tax increases and painful cuts in defense spending and entitlements are inevitable.

Right now, Congress is dancing on the head of the 2011 budget pin, focusing only on non-defense discretionary spending. But really getting control of the federal government budget is going to take place in 2012 and beyond, when leaders actually start looking at the other 86% of the budget.

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Understanding earth science in the 21st century

In his address to the National Academy of Science in 1963, President John F. Kennedy said that science is the “source of understanding man’s own nature.” Almost 50 years later, that remains the lens through which we view the benefits of science and scientific research.

In recent weeks, as discussions on balanced budgets and reduced deficits abound, some of the results are a staggering blow to scientific research and 21st Century competitiveness. In the context of earth science, the approach is flawed. On the one hand, deficit discussions ignore largely the cost-effective, multi-faceted, and often life saving benefits the study of earth science has brought to our country and the world over the last 50 years. Second, except among the uninformed, the debate over the human causes of climate change is one without scientific merit.

There is little debate among the world’s leading climate scientists about conclusions drawn from extensive, peer-reviewed scientific research. Nonetheless, we face significant cuts in research because some challenge the science and have raced to the outer edges to differ over the conclusions.

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Inclusion of conservation act in AGO report deserves support

The far-reaching America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) Report, released on February 16th, synthesizes input from a national conversation that got Americans talking about the places they love and how they want to work together to protect them. 

Our public lands, the heritage of all Americans, face many challenges - climate change, air and water pollution, urban sprawl, and loss of open space. Policymakers on both sides of the aisle can take direction from the nation’s collective wisdom as they look to reshape U.S. conservation policy. 

Through meetings and online forums, the initiative delivered timely feedback from communities, as we look to strengthen American conservation values that will make our country stronger, healthier, and more prosperous. 

Two of the conservation tools supported in the report have stood the test of time as effective and bipartisan – the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Antiquities Act.

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Getting the Gulf back to work

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar went to Houston to examine the new well containment system capable of plugging deep sea well blowouts in the Gulf. After announcing the Obama Administration still has no plans to lift the ongoing ten month drilling moratorium, Secretary Salazar then visited the small businesses in the region continuing to struggle because of this misguided, ineffective, and unnecessary policy. 

Just kidding; of course Secretary Salazar made no such visits. That would have been a little too close to the bone.

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Congress' intent is to handcuff the EPA

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will host its fifth and final listening session on putting limits on toxic pollution from the nation's biggest polluters. These safeguards will protect Americans from reckless corporations that have previously been able to use the air we breathe as their dumpster without limits. These meetings with stakeholders serve as an important forum where Americans voiced their concerns about air pollution and the need for protections against the health risks pollution poses to their families and communities.

But now we turn to Congress where some politicians continue to grandstand against common sense health protections – with some going as far as declaring their intent to handcuff the EPA from doing its job of protecting Americans.

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Critical energy issues for discussion with Secretary Salazar

Today, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will appear before a hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee, which comes directly on the heels of his testimony yesterday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Both hearings provide a good opportunity for the Secretary and committee members to discuss some critical issues about energy policy that are getting more and more attention as the situation in the Middle East remains uncertain and gasoline prices remain volatile.   

Here are a few of the critical issues that I hope are discussed today, and I’m sure I’m not alone:

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We need a comprehensive energy plan

Unrest in the Middle East is causing gas prices to skyrocket, with oil prices surpassing $100 per barrel.  This price spike threatens any economic recovery in our own country and underscores our nation’s need for a common sense, comprehensive energy plan that moves us to sustained energy independence.

Our country is too dependent on foreign oil.  In the short-term, we must take steps to ensure our nation is not held hostage to the prices set by the Middle East.  That means we need to look for new sources of oil wherever we can find it, including Alaska, the Outer Continental Shelf and from shale in the west.  With the need to create more jobs in our country, development in the former moratoria areas of the Outer Continental Shelf and other restricted areas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Rockies would directly create 160,000 new jobs by 2030, according to ICF International.

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