Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Another Porky Energy Bill

Same ole, same ole. An energy policy that does nothing to reduce demand. No CAFE standards increase, which would, as everyone knows, destroy our economy (heavy sarcasm). Heads stuck in the sand, despite many seemingly to recognize we might have a problem with climate change. Of course, that will just require more meetings, according to U.S. Senator from Alaska Lisa Murkowski. (see previous blog)


Energy Bill Wouldn't Wean U.S. Off Oil Imports, Analysts Say

By Justin Blum, Washington Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, July 26, 2005; 11:48 AM

Despite repeated calls by President Bush and members of Congress to decrease U.S. dependence on oil imports, a major energy bill that appears headed for passage this week would not significantly reduce the country's need for foreign oil, according to analysts and interest groups.

The United States imports 58 percent of the oil it consumes. Federal officials project that by 2025, the country will have to import 68 percent of its oil to meet demand. At best, analysts say, the energy legislation would slightly slow that rate of growth of dependence.

"We'll be dependent on the global market for more than half our oil for as long as we're using oil, and the energy bill isn't going to change that," said Ben Lieberman, who follows energy issues for the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington. "There's a few measures to increase domestic production . . . and that would not do much."

Negotiators early this morning ironed out the final differences between the House- and Senate-passed versions of an energy bill that has been high on the president's agenda since shortly after he took office in 2001 and created an energy task force headed by Vice President Cheney. The legislation would create billions of dollars' worth of tax breaks and other federal subsidies to encourage oil and gas production, to reduce pollution at coal-burning power plants, and to encourage energy conservation. The bill also would require the use of billions of gallons of ethanol and other fuels derived from agricultural products.

Lawmakers resolved one of the most contentious issues in the legislation by agreeing not to protect manufacturers of the gasoline additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) from defective product lawsuits. The Senate blocked final passage of an energy bill in 2003 after such legal protections were added.

But the emerging package does not do what some analysts said would have the greatest impact on reducing U.S. oil demand and cutting imports: a requirement to increase fuel-efficiency standards for trucks and cars. Under strong pressure from the automobile industry, the House and Senate rejected higher efficiency standards. Lawmakers argued that doing so would require redesigns that would make vehicles unsafe and result in a loss of manufacturing jobs -- arguments sharply disputed by advocates of fuel efficiency.

"The single biggest step that Congress could take to reduce our oil dependency is to significantly increase the fuel economy standards of the cars and trucks that Americans buy and drive," said Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which works on environmental issues.

As oil prices soared during the past year, and remained above $50 a barrel for weeks, lawmakers have raised increasing concerns about being reliant on foreign oil, particularly from the Middle East. High oil prices have pushed the price of gasoline to well over $2 a gallon.

From the start, Bush and GOP lawmakers have sold their energy policies as a means of reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. "Our dependence on foreign oil is like a foreign tax on the American dream, and that tax is growing every year," Bush said in May. During the Senate debate on the energy bill last month, Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said: "We must take steps to reduce our dependence on foreign countries and thereby enhance our energy security at home. When we rely on other nations for more than half our oil supply, we simply put our security at risk."

Some lawmakers say there will be plenty in the legislation to address the problem of dependence on foreign oil. The White House has not analyzed how the legislation would affect reliance on imports, spokeswoman Dana M. Perino said.

"Both bills will improve the nation's energy security by expanding the use of new technologies, increasing the diversity of renewable energy sources and reducing energy consumption through greater conservation and energy efficiency," she said.

The United States consumes more than 20 million barrels of oil a day, an amount forecast to grow steadily. The House-Senate conference committee rejected a measure calling on the president to reduce oil consumption by 1 million barrels a day by 2015. The Bush administration opposed the provision, saying it would require increasing fuel-efficiency standards beyond what technology would allow at an affordable price.

The provision that would have the biggest impact, analysts agreed, is a requirement for the United States to increase the amount of ethanol and other agriculture-derived fuels. That would offset some gasoline use, they said.

Lawmakers agreed to a measure calling for slightly less ethanol and other agriculture-derived fuels than called for in Senate legislation. The Senate measure would have reduced oil imports by about 0.8 percent less than they otherwise would have been in 2012, according to federal government estimates.

The energy legislation would provide tax breaks and other subsidies that supporters say would encourage increased domestic oil production to further reduce reliance on foreign oil. Domestic production has been declining for years.

Bush has pushed to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, to tap what geologists say is one of the few remaining areas of the country that hold promise for major new production. Without that new drilling, net oil imports would be 68 percent in 2025, according to the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration. With drilling in the refuge, net oil imports would account for 64 percent of consumption in 2025, according to the EIA.

A provision to open the refuge -- a highly contentious issue because of the strong opposition from environmentalists and many Democrats -- was not included in the final version of the energy bill. But such a measure has been included in budget language, and final votes are expected in Congress in September.

The energy legislation also calls for money to be spent on research into hydrogen, alternative fuels, efficiency and technology, which supporters said could ultimately help reduce oil consumption. The Senate version of the legislation calls for tax breaks for hybrid vehicles, which supporters said would help reduce oil demand.

Environmentalists cited a provision included in the legislation that they said would result in more oil consumption and greater imports: extension of a provision designed to encourage auto manufacturers to produce vehicles that can run on either gasoline or a fuel blend of 85 percent ethanol.

The provision allows automakers to receive fuel economy credit -- and increase production of less-fuel-efficient vehicles -- even if owners use only gasoline, environmentalists said. Few gas stations sell the ethanol blend, and many of the cars end up being fueled by gasoline, they said.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Struggling U.S. Senators

Well, those poor struggling senators ... how about a first step by having an energy bill that would reduce our consumption of fossil fuels with such simple measures as more efficient fuel standards for our vehicles? Nah, they'll cave to the auto and oil industries. Just you watch.


Senators Struggle to Act on Global Warming

By Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 22, 2005; A03

After listening to some of the world's preeminent climate researchers yesterday, a bipartisan group of senators said they saw the need to take quick action on global warming but were struggling to reach consensus on what policy to adopt.

Several Republicans on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee said during the two-hour hearing that they would consider adopting mandatory limits on emissions of heat-trapping gases but that they prefer the approach of promoting new technologies that do not contribute to the problem.

"I don't think the issue is whether we have a major international problem; the question is: How do we solve it?" said the panel's chairman, Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.). "I'm looking for a solution, but I'm not going to join the crowd that thinks it's simple."

Last month, the Senate adopted a nonbinding resolution by a vote of 53 to 44 calling for a "national program of mandatory market-based limits and incentives on greenhouse gases" that would not hurt the U.S. economy and would encourage other polluting nations to follow suit. The Senate defeated a bipartisan bill by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) that sought to establish a mandatory federal cap on heat-trapping emissions, and Domenici said he hoped his committee's climate change hearings would help lawmakers devise an alternative.

The scientists testifying yesterday, including National Academy of Sciences President Ralph J. Cicerone and Nobel prize-winning chemist Mario Molina, all said the world is warming at a dangerous rate, and that human activity accounts for much of the recent temperature rise.

"Climate change is perhaps the most worrisome global environmental problem confronting human society today," said Molina, a professor at the University of California at San Diego. Molina added that while experts are still uncertain about exactly how global warming will play out in future decades, "not knowing with certainty how the climate system will respond should not be an excuse for inaction."

Several committee Republicans, including some who had questioned climate change predictions in the past, said they agree the world has reached a scientific consensus on global warming.

"I have come to believe, along with many of my colleagues, that there is a substantial human effect on the environment," said Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho), who has opposed mandatory curbs on greenhouse gas emissions and voted against last month's "sense of the Senate" resolution on climate change.

Some GOP senators, such as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), went further. In an interview, Murkowski said that "there's an emerging consensus we've got to deal" with climate change, adding it would be "tough" to cut greenhouse gases sufficiently through voluntary programs alone.

"I'd rather we don't have to [adopt mandatory limits], but we know what happens when we leave it to our good judgment. Sometimes we don't see the benefits," she said.

Some Republican panel members said they would be more open to the witnesses' call to arms if the scientists would embrace nuclear power, which does not release carbon dioxide as coal-fired power plants do. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) lectured the climatologists from the dais, saying that installing solar panels "might be nice for a desert island, but that's not going to work . . . in America."

Cicerone replied that nuclear power "has tremendous potential. People just want to see it done safely."

It remains unclear how quickly lawmakers would be willing to act on climate change proposals. Domenici said in an interview that he plans to bring in a group of global warming skeptics to testify, and he would prefer requiring that American companies install cleaner technology, rather than setting specific targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"They're not saying we have to do something tomorrow morning," Domenici said of the scientists.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Don't get violent in the nude

Recent reports about the video game Grand Theft Auto San Andreas indicate that it had some secret sex scenes that some folks figured out how to unlock. The game now sports an "Adult Only" rating. Now killing and running people over with your car and other more direct implements/weapons of destruction are okay for kids, but you'd better not let them realize what they are supposed to do with their weapons of love. What a duplicitous society we live in.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

I told you so

Once in too rare a while, I stop my daily routines long enough to contemplate the long term view, while still denying that my nightmares are real (let's not go there). Today's long term contemplation came where I may do-do my greatest thinking (pun intended) - on the can.

Ever since I was young, I recall reading materials in reach of the toilet in my homes. General interest magazines usually, several cuts above the Readers Digest, such as Mother Jones, National Geographic, the occasional Utney Reader, Church and State, coupled with a few of the computer magazines I get such as Network Mag.

Today's reading was in National Geographic on the nature of the universe. It seems that in 20 billion years or so, our universe will fall into areas in space known as dark matter. Think of our current universe as a depression in a trampoline from a bowling ball. Everything as we know it - poof! If that's the case, why should we be concerned about all our current problems? My wife says I'm pretty stretched (a kinder word than she actually used). Fmr Alaska Legislator Rick Halford commented that he thought he was a forwarding looking thinker, but I was way beyond him. Of course, I wasn't talking Einstein's Theory of Relativity at the time. Actually, I was talking into the future to where we are now. And, without hubris, I was right. Sadly, we as a state mostly went the wrong way. I really do hate "I told you so"'s.