We’ve heard the lie that environmental protections are raising gas prices again and again. However, one House Republican was recently (and perhaps unintentionally) honest about the true impact of the Tea Party’s anti-environmental agenda.
“I don’t think any of us have said that our bill would reduce costs,” stated Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Ed Whitfield. As Rick Perry might say: “Oops.”
In fact, many members of the Tea Party have said that their bills to rollback environmental protections would reduce costs. The Ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee has helpfully remixed some of these repeated assertions into a short video.
If, as the subcommittee chairman said, thesebills won’t lower gas prices, what will they do? They will stop EPA from implementing parts of the Clean Air Act at dirty refineries. They will stop EPA from making fuels cleaner. They will stop EPA from updating clean air standards that reduce smog. And they’d undermine the heart of the Clean Air Act by forcing EPA to deviate from decades of success in only considering health when setting certain pollution standards.
Once again the Tea Party shows its true colors by putting polluter profits ahead of people’s health.
Mitt Romney has once again reminded voters that he likes to fire people. On Sunday, he told Fox News he would fire three top Obama administration leaders because he says “they are on a mission to drive up the price of gasoline.”
Romney called the leaders — Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson — “the gas-hike trio” and said they should be summarily dismissed.
Yet for all his executive bravado, Romney’s claim that three Obama officials have caused gas prices to soar is as off base as Newt Gingrich’s promise to deliver $2-a-gallon gasoline.
I expected more market savvy from the candidate who claims to be the self-proclaimed business authority.
Does Romney really not understand the basic dynamics at work in the global oil market? Tensions in Iran and unrest in Syria is prompting Wall Street speculators to bet on higher prices. Meanwhile, demand in China India, and Brazil continues to grow, which is not surprising considering the number of cars in China alone has tripled in the last five years.
These are the primary forces that shape oil prices. Neither Secretary Chu’s efforts to promote American clean energy innovation nor Administrator Jackson’s work to make our air safer to breathe has the ability to inform those prices. Not even Secretary Salazar’s drive to open more lands for drilling and sell more offshore leases can do it.
We know because the number of oi rigs operating in the United States has risen more than 80 percent in the past 3 years and nearly 150 percent from 10 years ago. Last year alone, the United States produced more oil than any time since 2003. Yet all this activity couldn’t protect Americans from having to pay $4 a gallon at the pump last spring.
And yet these solutions never appear in Romney’s gas-price plan. Instead, he belittles renewable energy by turning into a punch line. Last week he started saying that President Obama “keeps talking about alternative energy; the real thing we need is an alternative president.” On Sunday, said Chu, Salazar, and Jackson are driving up gasoline prices “so they finally get their solar and their wind to be more price-competitive.”
It’s interesting that Romney thinks solar and wind energy belongs to the Obama Administration. In fact, wind and solar resources belong to all Americans and developing these infinite stores of energy will benefit our national interest.
American engineers are already at work designing the next generation of solar panels that will dominate the global market. Nearly 200,000 Americans work in the wind and solar industries, helping revive our pride in the “Made in America” label. And all our families benefit from relying on energy that releases zero pollution and causes none of the asthma or heart attacks that fossil fuels do.
Romney would have us turn our backs on these benefits. In my view, a candidate who would sell American innovators short and disparage one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy is the one who might find himself in need of a job instead of handing out pink slips.
Super Tuesday turned out to be Groundhog Day: Three candidates saw their shadows and winter could last for six more months. The presidential nomination process may be grinding on, but Congressional races are starting to heat up.
Candidates are zeroing on their messages, and at a time when jobs are scarce and gas prices are high, smart candidates are discovering the power of running on clean energy.
Even some Republican candidates are promising to deliver clean energy to their constituents.
Nevada Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, for instance, is a Tea Party darling who has followed the GOP leadership’s attack on environmental safeguards. Yet he has also been a staunch supporter of clean energy development in his state.
Why the apparent contradiction? Location, location, location.
Nevada is home to both record unemployment and enormous clean energy reserves. The state suffered some of the worst fallout of the housing bust, and anyone running for office since the financial meltdown has needed a laser-like focus on jobs in order to win.
Green jobs are the low-hanging fruit. Nevada currently has over 16,500 jobs in the clean economy — 33 percent more than the oil and gas sector in the state. Between 2003 and 2010, Nevada added 5,411 clean jobs, meaning that the sector grew nearly 6 percent annually even through one of the toughest economic periods in decades.
This growth won’t be slowing down anytime soon. According to a recent Ernst and Young study, Nevada is the fifth most promising state for geothermal and solar power. And a recent SNL energy project database found that construction has begun on 10 solar, geothermal and wind projects, creating jobs, cutting pollution and reducing our dependence on foreign energy.
Yet in 2010, Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle made the mistake of disparaging clean energy and calling green jobs a “scam“. She lost her race to Harry Reid.
Harry Reid, meanwhile, put clean energy jobs at the heart of his campaign. “We highlighted it in everything we did whether it was through our mail program, TV program, Internet program,” said Reid’s campaign manager Brandon Hall. “It was always the message that we led with.”
Reid’s campaign research found that voters were basing vote on how much Reid had done for the state. Clean energy, Hall explained, “was one of the top issues he was able to leverage his leadership position to benefit Nevada. There was investment coming into Nevada in clean energy. And jobs were being created. For us, it was our top-testing issue.”
NRDC’s Action Fund’s analysis confirms that supporting clean energy gives candidates an advantage. It offers a positive, solutions-based narrative to talk about issues that matter most to Americans: jobs, the economy, gas prices, and the health of their families.
Heller seems to agree. One of his campaign emails trumpets the fact that Heller “has long fought to bring a variety of sources of renewable energy to Nevada.”
At the same time, Heller voted with GOP leadership on a raft of bills that would strip away clean air safeguards and make life easier for dirty coal-fired power plants. He also voted in favor of taxpayer subsidies for oil companies.
Some of the measures Heller opposed would have helped level the playing field between dirty fossil fuels and clean energy resources. It would benefit Nevada if Heller cast more votes on the clean side.
He wouldn’t be the only Republican to do so. Last month, 21 Republican representatives voted against a GOP-sanctioned transportation bill that would have allowed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and up and down the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts.
These Republican lawmakers seem to realize voters are looking for more than the same-old drill-happy approach to energy development. Instead, voters want innovation, new investment, and job opportunities.
I don’t agree with a lot of Heller’s votes on the environment, but I respect his commitment to clean energy. His track record shows that even Tea Party favorites can deliver clean energy jobs for their constituents.
“The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity and our long-term security on a resource that will eventually run out.” — President Obama
President Obama heads to Miami today where he will give a speech about rising gas prices. Some analysts say prices at the pump could top $4 per gallon this summer. What’s driving up the cost of gasoline is rising demand as the U.S. economy continues to improve, the growing thirst for fuel in other countries, and political instability in the Middle East.
Obviously, the president’s political opponents are clamoring to blame Obama for the pain at the pump — despite the fact his administration has dramatically increased domestic oil and gas drilling while doing more than other president to reduce our reliance on oil by raising automobile fuel-efficiency standards. But as usual, politics trumps policy — especially in an election year. And it’s a safe bet the GOP won’t let the facts about gas prices get in the way.
Coinciding wth the president’s trip to South Florida, the Miami Herald published a commentary by NRDC’s Executive Director Peter Lehner. The gist of Peter’s piece is that the solution to our nation’s energy crisis is not to “drill, baby, drill” but to give Americans more energy freedom. He writes:
“Contrary to what we’re hearing from some politicians and Big Oil lobbyists, more drilling doesn’t mean lower gas prices. The number of oil rigs in the United States has quadrupled in the past three years. The United States is already producing more oil than it has in nearly a decade.
Yet what has that done for gas prices? They’ve only increased of course — not because we need to even drill more, but because demand is increasing with the improving economy; because countries like China and India are expanding and because Iran is threatening to cut off its oil supply to the rest of the world.
Even if we were to drill every drop of oil known to exist in the United States, we wouldn’t have enough to meet our demand. The cold hard fact is that America consumes about 25 percent of the world’s oil, but has less than 3 percent of the world’s proven reserves. And besides, who wants to see oil wells off of South Beach or face the economic devastation that would follow a Deepwater Horizon-like spill off the coast of Fort Lauderdale?
Forget about getting more oil from our friendly neighbor to the north too. There’s a reason why Canadian companies want to run their Keystone XL pipeline all the way to the Gulf of Mexico: It’s so they can reach worldwide oil markets — not so they can deliver more oil to us here in the United States.
The simple truth is, we can’t drill our way out of our addiction to oil.”
Peter is spot on. We don’t have nearly enough oil supply on our own land or off our shores to be energy self-sufficent. Finding ways to use less oil is the only sure-fire way to shield ourselves from price shocks at the pump. With that in mind, here are 10 ways to reduce U.S. oil dependence (courtesy of the folks at the Clean Fleet Report) summarized as follows:
eliminate fossil fuel subsidies
employer commute and flexwork programs
cash for clunkers
The blog’s main point is that, together, those strategies all add up to this:
“Making us more dependent on oil will not make us less dependent. We must end the subsidies and mandates that make us 96 percent dependent on oil and allow our individuals, cities, and states to keep moving us forward with better transit, fuel-efficient cars, and a brighter future.”
So, as the rhetoric over rising gas prices heats up please try to remember that the problem is our nation’s oil addiction and for that there is no simple solution. Attacking this issue purely from the supply side will get us nowhere; reducing our demand is the only realistic answer. That means investing in more transportation choices so Americans have the freedom to find other ways than driving to get us where we need to go.
Governor Rick Perry made a big display of presenting his energy policy last Friday. He positioned it as a bold new plan for America, but this drill, baby, drill approach to energy was already stale when Sarah Palin stumped for it three years ago.
It’s is déjà vu all over again. We’ve had a Texas oilman in charge of our country’s energy policy: it worked out a lot better for Big Oil than it did for the American people. We wound up paying $4 a gallon at the pump while Exxon walked off with $45 billion in profits.
Now Perry is offering more of the same. I think the familiarity is part of the appeal. His campaign is going for the safe, tested messages here—the proven buzz words that poll well across a broad spectrum of the Republican Party.
When you have seriously considered succeeding from the union and you deny the existence of climate change, your Tea Party credentials are pretty secure. To win in the general election, however, you need the conventional GOP voters too. Perry can pick and chose from this “all of the above” approach to energy to appeal to whichever audience he is speaking to at the time: the mainstream and the radical fringe.
That may be savvy campaigning, but it doesn’t do much for America.
Perry’s plan calls for pursuing fossil fuels to the ends of the Earth. He wants companies to drill miles under the Arctic Ocean for oil and inject fracking chemicals deep into people’s backyards to bring up natural gas.
We can look in new and more extreme places for fuel, but Perry’s plan boils down to this: burning rocks to create energy. It’s the same technology we’ve been using for 200 years. Where is the innovation? Where is the vision that will carry America into the 21st century? Where is the leadership?
The rest of the world is racing to design the most cost-effective solar panels and most reliable wind turbines, because they know clean technologies will generate clean power AND lots of money. Worldwide clean energy investments were valued at $243 billion in 2010.
Perry’s plan disregards these market realities, and by doing so, hands over dominance of the clean energy market to China. He selling America short in a field we could actually lead in favor of one we never will: oil production.
Perry’s call for homegrown energy has a great ring to it, but when your home only has 1.6 percent of the globe’s proven oil reserves and you consume 26 percent of the world’s supply, there is a limit to what you can achieve—no matter how many wells you sink. That’s not politics; it’s geology. And no bumper-sticker slogan can change it.
America is already drilling more than we have in decades. Perry claims that President Obama has blocked domestic oil production, but companies drilled almost 21,000 oil wells in the first eight months of this year—the highest number in almost 30 years.
That’s nearly double the amount drilling the same period last year, and nearly triple the number drilled in 2009.
Yet none of this protected us from $4 a gallon gasoline this spring. Nor will it protect us from China’s growing demand, Middle Eastern politics, or any of the other forces the shape the global oil market.
That’s where the innovation comes in. Better performing cars will reduce our oil dependence, and smarter policies will encourage technological advances. This summer President Obama’s announced new fuel efficiency standards. By 2025, new cars and light trucks in this county will go about twice as far, on average, on a gallon of gas, compared with today’s vehicles. The difference will save Americans $80 billion a year at the pump. It will also reduce our oil use by 3.1 million barrels per day by 2030 and cut automobile carbon emissions in half.
Now that’s a new direction for America, a way to move into greater energy security, cleaner air, and more prosperity. Perry’s plan is a retread. Sticking to the energy sources we have used for two centuries may help his campaign, but it won’t do much for our country.