By Brendan Bell, Washington representative of the Union of Concerned Scientists - 02/23/11 12:32 AM EST
Rep. Fred Upton’s (R-Mich.) recent op-ed in The Hill called for reducing America’s oil dependence (“Government’s red tape tangles up fuel sources,” Feb. 14). Then why is he sponsoring a bill that would weaken the Clean Air Act? Not only would his proposed legislation put the health of our communities at risk, it would make America even more dependent on oil by undermining critical fuel efficiency and tailpipe pollution standards for new cars and trucks.
These standards represent the biggest single step America can take to save consumers money at the gas pump, cut tailpipe pollution and break our dependence on oil. Once fully implemented, the standards would cut U.S. oil dependence by 5 million barrels per day. That’s more oil than we currently import from the Middle East.
Despite the obvious benefits, Rep. Upton continues to push legislation that would scrap these standards — and those jobs along with it.
Rep. Upton can either fight for the narrow interests of oil and auto lobbyists or he can fight for strengthening national security, creating good-paying jobs and putting more money back in consumers’ pockets.
He can’t have it both ways.
Minimum quality the key to net neutrality
From Tim Brennan, professor of public policy and economics, UMBC
Sara Jerome reported last week that Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee would rather leave net neutrality to antitrust enforcement rather than communications regulation. Unfortunately, if they paid attention to recent Supreme Court rulings, they’d realize that they have no choice. In a couple of cases since 2004, Verizon v. Trinko and Credit Suisse v. Billing, the Supreme Court found that when a regulator has authority over competitive practices in a particular industry, the costs of antitrust enforcement exceed the benefits. These decisions essentially reversed the view that antitrust generally takes precedence over regulation, a view that among other things led to the breakup of (the old) AT&T in the 1980s.
These Republicans also miss the reason why intervention in content delivery practices might be necessary, but they share this error with net-neutrality advocates. The key issue isn’t market power, as each side contends, but instead is the value in assuring all content providers that their viewers will have reasonable access to links included in their content. The need to provide this assurance actually increases the more competitive is the market, as it becomes harder to reach agreements across multiple broadband providers.
This value of this “network externality” to use policy jargon, suggests not full net neutrality. A more appropriate policy would be a minimum quality standard that provides such assurance to content providers, while allowing innovations that require higher bandwidth or more reliable connections. Whether the benefits of a minimum quality standard exceed costs of implementation and added congestion management is an open question, but its costs are surely lower than imposing full net neutrality. The policy discussion would be better grounded, less contentious and more fruitful were minimum quality rather than identical treatment the focus.
From Al Sartor
In reference to “Democrat suggests ‘Obama Care’ rhetoric should be banned from House floor,” (Pete Kasperowicz, Feb. 18), this complaint shows a lack of imagination on the part of the Democrats.
All they need do is add one letter and covert the negative “Obama Care” to the positive “Obama Cares.”
On second thought, this might invite the question, “About what?”
Walnut Creek, Calif.
More research needed on tar sands oil transport
From Lih Young
According to scientific environmental research groups, tar sands crude oil pipeline companies may be putting America’s public safety at risk. Increasingly, pipelines transporting tar sands crude oil into the United States are carrying diluted bitumen, or DilBit — a highly corrosive, acidic and potentially unstable blend of thick raw bitumen and volatile natural-gas liquid condensate, raising risks of spills and damage to communities along their paths.
The impacts of tar sands production are well known. Tar sands extraction in Canada destroys boreal forests and wetlands, causes high levels of greenhouse gas pollution and leaves behind immense lakes of toxic waste. Less well understood, however, is the increased risk and potential harm that can be caused by transporting the raw form of tar sands oil (bitumen) through pipelines to refineries in the United States. Some safety concerns are: to evaluate the need for new U.S. pipeline safety regulations; the oil pipeline industry should take special precautions for pipelines transporting DilBit; improve spill response planning for DilBit pipeline; new DilBit pipeline construction and development should not be considered until adequate safety regulations for DilBit pipelines are in place; and to reduce U.S. demand for oil, especially for tar sands oil.