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George W. Bush


Pennies to Clean Energy, Billions to Big Oil -- Mainstream Media Missing the Real Story on Solyndra

Thu, 15 Sep 2011 16:53:48 +0000

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing yesterday on the ongoing and growing scandal in the wake of the bankruptcy of Solyndra Corporation. Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer that recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after laying off over 1,000 workers, is facing a barrage of attacks by both politicians and the media. The GOP and its right wing media echo chamber in particular have sought to condemn the entire U.S. clean energy sector as a result of an FBI raid of Solyndra's offices. Things have spun so far out of control inside the Beltway that Rep. David Vitter (R-La.) is disseminating a bill that would, “require an inspector general investigation into any company that receives federal money for renewable energy development and then goes bankrupt.” But Vitter's so-called Federal Accountability of Renewable Energy (FARE) Act is hardly a fair assessment of accountability across the entire energy subsidies spectrum. Besides serving as an opportunistic moment to dance on the grave of a solar company, in the wake of Solyndra's economic downfall, we're witnessing a true disdain among Republicans for a clean energy technology that was invented here at home, and possesses the potential to help wean the U.S. from deep reliance on foreign energy. In the currently toxic political environment, the GOP seems more interested in ceding that job-rich opportunity to China. Explaining the bill further, The Hill's Andrew Restuccia wrote, Co-sponsored by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the bill would require that federal agencies conduct a full audit of any renewable energy projects that have received taxpayer money from fiscal years 2009 to 2011. The audit must determine how successful the project is, including how many jobs it has created and what its profits are. In addition, agencies would be required to identify which venture capital firms helped finance the project. Any companies that declare bankruptcy or fail to meet the objectives required by the federal government would be subject to an inspector general investigation under the legislation.  In other words, the clean energy sector would be held to a completely different standard than is the all-powerful fossil fuel sector. Why don't we hear even more outrage from these same supposedly budget-conscious politicians about the hundreds of billions of dollars dumped by American taxpayers into fully-mature polluting energy sources that we know are harming our health, our climate and our security? How could anyone consider solar power the enemy? A Lack of Perspective From the Media on Clout of Fossil Fuel Industry ​Solyndra has received a vast amount of media attention since the beginning of September, but very few outlets have conveyed the real story - that the fossil fuel industry receives billions of dollars in government subsidies on an annual basis, and leaves solar and other renewables manufacturers far and away in the dust. According to a March 2011 story by the Christian Science Monitor, gas and oil interests receive a steep $41 billion per year in subsidies.  Also, according to a July 2010 article in the New York Times​, the fossil fuel industry at-large benefits from tens of billions of dollars in government subsidies on an annual basis. Honing in on the oil industry specifically, the Times​ discovered that Big Oil receives over $4 billion in tax breaks each year, as shown by an October 2005 Congressional Budget Office report. In addition, the fossil fuel industry maintains a powerful armada of lobbyists on Capitol Hill. The Los Angeles Times covered the depths of the industry's influence in a May 2010 article, All told, the oil and gas industry spent $174.7 million and registered 788 lobbyists to influence lawmakers and regulators last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research organization. Since 1998, the industry has spent $966.8 million on lobbying, making it the sixth-biggest-spending interest group in Washington, the center found. Furthermore, in a well-researched arti[...]

Solyndra Solar Panel Corporation Scandal Ablaze - ThinkProgress Sets Record Straight

Wed, 14 Sep 2011 19:48:08 +0000

The ongoing scandal continues to blaze at Solyndra. Solyndra Corporation, a San Francisco Bay area solar panel start-up company, is under fire in the immediate aftermath of its August 31 filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and laying off over 1,000 workers, which is roughly one-fourth of those who were employed by Solyndra at the time. Shortly after this development, on September 8, Solyndra was raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.   Critics, such as climate change denier and Republican Party Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, are referring to the deal as “crony capitalism” gone arwy. In an interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, Bachmann stated, “This is what the American people don't want. They don't want crony capitalism. It infuriates them. We saw that with President Obama, when we saw over $500 million dollars go to Solyndra, who was a political donor of President Obama.” The $500 million Bachmann is referring to is a loan guarantee that was given to Solyndra from the Obama Department of Energy in March 2009. Others, such as The National Journal and The New York Post have also gone into “blame Obama” attack mode, blaming him not only for giving a loan to a company that went under, but furthermore, for taking campaign money from a fundraiser set up by George Kaiser. ThinkProgress' Stephen Lacey explains who Kaiser is and why he matters: Because one of the Solyndra investors, Argonaut Venture Capital, is funded by George Kaiser — a man who donated money to the Obama campaign — the loan guarantee has been attacked as being political in nature. And yet, a deeper probe shows that, while an easy scapegoat, there was another key player in this game, who has gone unmentioned by the mainstream press – former President George W. Bush. ThinkProgress Lays Out Real Timeline In an article titled, “Bush Administration Advanced Solyndra Loan Guarantee for Two Years, Media Blow the Story,” Lacey revealed that although the popular narative has been to blame Obama in exclusivity, the reality is that Solyndra was, in actuality, a project spearheaded by the Bush Administration in 2007. Lacey wrote, To set the record straight, Climate Progress is publishing this timeline — verified by Department of Energy officials — that shows how the loan guarantee came together under both administrations. In fact, rather than rushing the loan for Solyndra through, the Obama Administration restructured the original Bush-era deal to further protect the taxpayers’ investment. The complete, month-by-month, year-by-year timeline, provided by Lacey and ThinkProgress in the article, can be seen below: May 2005: Just as a global silicon shortage begins driving up prices of solar photovoltaics, Solyndra is founded to provide a cost-competitive alternative to silicon-based panels. July 2005: The Bush Administration signs the Energy Policy Act of 2005 into law, creating the 1703 loan guarantee program. February 2006 – October 2006: In February, Solyndra raises its first round of venture financing worth $10.6 million from CMEA Capital, Redpoint Ventures, and U.S. Venture Partners. In October, Argonaut Venture Capital, an investment arm of George Kaiser, invests $17 million into Solyndra. Madrone Capital Partners, an investment arm of the Walton family, invests $7 million. Those investments are part of a $78.2 million fund. December 2006: Solyndra Applies for a Loan Guarantee under the 1703 program. Late 2007: Loan guarantee program is funded. Solyndra was one of 16 clean-tech companies deemed ready to move forward in the due diligence process. The Bush Administration DOE moves forward to develop a conditional commitment. October 2008: Then Solyndra CEO Chris Gronet touted reasons for building in Silicon Valley and noted that the “company’s second factory also will be built in Fremont, since a Department of Energy loan guarantee mandates a U.S. location.” November 2008: Silicon prices remain very high on the spot market, making non-silicon based thin [...]

Congress Seeks to End Billions in Subsidies for Oil Companies

Wed, 09 Mar 2011 19:05:42 +0000

As both oil industry profits and gas prices continue to rise, Congressman Bruce Braley (D – IA) believes that it is time to end the billions of dollars worth of subsidies that the United States hands out to oil companies on an annual basis. In his proposed Clean Energy Jobs bill, Braley would end the tax breaks and other subsidies that flow to the oil industry, and use that money instead to create clean energy jobs, invest in biofuel production, and pay down the national debt. These oil industry subsidies are nothing to scoff at. In 2005, then-President George W. Bush authorized a total of $32.9 billion worth of new subsidies for the industry over five years, bringing the annual total of their subsidies to a staggering $39 billion. The new subsidies were put in place at a time when Americans were paying the highest price for gasoline at the pump in history, which coincided with the largest oil company profits to date. To put the oil industries’ subsidies in perspective, T.J. Scolnick wrote in a DeSmogBlog piece last month in response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address: The President proposed $302 million for solar energy research and development (up 22 percent); $123 million for wind energy (a 53 percent increase); and $55 million for geothermal energy (up 25 percent). But fossil fuels subsidies are holding back growth in burgeoning clean energy industries, which face a momumental challenge to compete with entrenched industries that receive far greater government subsidies. Oil industry subsidies were established to help the industry meet the energy demands of the nation, and are meant to be used to increase production, exploration, and innovation. However, as fossil fuels are becoming more and more expensive to produce and causing increasing damage to the environment, the subsidies no longer provide a tangible benefit to the American people. The price of gasoline and consumer products continues to soar, putting a heavy burden on American families, and the only apparent benefits are going to the oil industry’s bottom line, as evidenced in their record profits even in a tough economy. Investing these billions of dollars of subsidies into clean, renewable sources of energy would not only create new industries offering much-needed jobs, but would also help reduce the pollution associated with dirty fossil fuels that threatens public health and the global climate. Congressman Braley’s Clean Energy Jobs bill is in the early stages of the legislative process, and faces tough political hurdles with a Republican-controlled Congress.  While the wisdom of Braley’s vision for clean energy and job creation is clear, the chances of the bill being brought to a full House vote remain slim. Once again, politics stands in the way of real progress.Tags: State of the UnionCongressoilrenewableenergypoliticssubsidiesSubsidyCarbon EmissionMoneyBruce BraleyCelan Energy Jobs[...]

What Was Missing From the Oil Spill Commission's Report

Fri, 14 Jan 2011 16:38:11 +0000

Earlier this week, the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling released their final report on the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. For those of us who had been following the story, there was nothing new in the report – BP, Halliburton, and Transocean cut corners on safety measures; They received warnings from crew that there were numerous problems, and that the whole disaster should make us take a good hard look at offshore drilling. I’m a little sensitive about this subject because I am a lifelong Gulf Coast resident. While most people only read about the disaster or saw clips on the news, I was living through it, watching tar balls roll up on the beaches I’ve played on since I was an infant. The report does point some fingers, but the pointing ends with companies like BP, Halliburton, and Transocean. That is the equivalent of blaming Ford if a drunk driver gets into a wreck. In that situation, you have a driver at fault, a bartender who didn’t take away someone’s keys – a collective group making poor decisions. In the Gulf oil disaster, the driver was Dick Cheney, and the bartender was Chris Oynes. Yet strangely enough, neither one of those people were mentioned once in the Oil Spill Commission's 382-page report. To understand the full story, you have to understand the involvement of both Oynes and Cheney. Chris Oynes oversaw all oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico for the Minerals Management Service (MMS) for twelve years, meaning he personally oversaw the lease given to the Deepwater Horizon rig. It was during this time that Oynes made a name for himself in Republican politics by allowing oil companies to buy cheap leases to drill in the Gulf of Mexico without paying any taxes on their revenues. According to the resulting Congressional hearings on the matter, the oil companies claim that they repeatedly told Oynes that he needed to be charging taxes, but he refused. When asked by the Congressional committee about this, Oynes told them that he simply forgot to charge taxes. But his gifts to the oil industry didn’t end with the estimated $10 billion tax break. He also allowed the oil companies to fill out their own inspection reports in pencil. Oynes would then have his staff trace over in ink, giving the impression that they were actually doing their jobs. In a normal scenario, this should have gotten Oynes booted out of the agency. But in 2007, Dick Cheney personally saw to it that Oynes receive a promotion to become the associate director for Offshore Energy and Minerals Management at MMS. Oynes was the perfect fit for Cheney, as Cheney himself had been working for years to dismantle regulations on the oil industry and allow them to write their own rules. And this is where the plot thickens. During Dick Cheney’s secret energy task force meetings in 2001, he allowed oil industry executives to help draft legislation that would allow them to operate with almost no oversight (and the oversight that did occur came from cronies like Chris Oynes.) One of the most important rules that they wrote for themselves was that they didn’t have to include an acoustic switch on offshore oil rigs – a device that blows up and seals off a well permanently in the event of a blowout. According to attorney Mike Papantonio: “An 'acoustic switch' would have prevented this catastrophe - it's a failsafe that shuts the flow of oil off at the source - they cost only about half a million dollars each, and are required in off-shore drilling platforms in most of the world…except for the United States. This was one of the new deregulations devised by Dick Cheney ..” So here we have two of the biggest culprits in the BP oil spill saga, and yet neither one of them was mentioned in the commission’s final report. This isn’t to say that the report won’t have a positive impact – it makes a very strong and compelling argument about the need for greater regulation and inspections of oil rigs in ord[...]

Bush's Midnight Regulations: The Worse Is Yet to Come

Sat, 29 Nov 2008 05:30:54 +0000

Reports of the president’s lame duck status – his impotence, if you will – have been vastly exaggerated. Even as he has all but given up on rescuing the faltering economy (which, given his track record, isn’t necessarily a bad thing), he and his advisers have been redoubling their efforts to squash what is left of his predecessors’ environmental legacy. There have been a number of stories making the rounds suggesting that the Bush administration is planning nothing less than the wholesale dismantling of the country’s environmental policy: easing the rules requiring power plants to install emission-reducing technologies, relaxing drinking-water standards, removing Congress’ authority to impose a moratorium on uranium mining and changing the definition of “solid waste” to lessen regulatory burdens (just to name a few). But, as you might imagine, the president has reserved the most firepower for his administration’s real bête noire: climate change. The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin recently reported that the president has been quietly enlisting the support of his allies to mount a vigorous attack on a proposal – issued by his government, no less – that would require the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the purview of the Clean Air Act. The Post recovered an e-mail sent last week by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs in which Jeremy J. Broggi, its associate director, warned elected officials that the comment period would “close on November 28”. In addition, he linked to a post written by (who else?) the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that cautioned that a limit on greenhouse gas emissions would impose a “de facto moratorium” on new construction and infrastructure projects. The angle here was clear: by employing scare tactics and doom-mongering predictions to coax its allies into action, the White House hoped to fell the proposal, or at least significantly ease its provisions, by making it sound too oppressive. (It already seems to have had its desired effect: Texas Gov. Rick Perry wrote to the EPA last Tuesday arguing that any cap would cause “irreparable” damage to the economy.) Despite claiming to have seen the light on global warming, acknowledging its risks in several recent speeches, it was always clear to anybody with even half a brain that Bush (and Cheney) preferred the skeptics’ upbeat narrative. And while President-elect Obama has vowed to roll back his predecessor’s abuses, many regulatory and legal observers say that it won’t be so easy. For one thing, Bush has unleashed a veritable tidal wave of new rules on multiple fronts (close to 90, according to the Post), which means that an Obama administration will need to invest considerable time and resources to reverse all of them – time and resources it may want to save for other priorities. Second, undoing each rule will necessitate a long, arduous regulatory proceeding – with lengthy public comment periods, drafting and repeated analyses. Even if his government were to successfully repeal most of these rules, the damage would likely already have been done. (Try telling a company to un-build a coal plant.)To be fair, Bush’s predecessors also used their last months in office to pass a number of so-called midnight regulations (Bill Clinton actually pushed for more). What makes his last-minute proposals unprecedented, of course, is that they would all ease or eliminate environmental regulations, putting the health of workers, communities and ecosystems at risk; also, by getting all of these through by the end of November, the Bushies hope to tie the Obama administration’s hands. As ProPublica’s Joaquin Sapien notes, this rush to deregulate runs counter to the objectives laid out in a memo issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget earlier this year, telling agency officials to “resist the historical tendency of administrations to increase regulatory activ[...]

Revving the Climate Policy Engine

Fri, 21 Nov 2008 04:02:00 +0000

All the pieces seem to be falling into place this week. Even as renewable energy stocks continued to plummet along with the rest of the market—the PowerShares WilderHill Clean Energy Index, which seeks to represent the industry, has declined 37 percent this year—we’re finally seeing some striking signals that at last things will be different when it comes to climate and energy policy. As recently as last week, my colleague Sheril Kirshenbaum wrote here that while we’re on the verge of a sea change, it was still unclear precisely how the incoming Obama administration would move on global warming. Since then, the picture has gotten much clearer, especially in Congress. Consider the following three major developments: First: On Tuesday, President-elect Obama released a video statement for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Global Climate Summit, taking place in Beverly Hills. Promising that his presidency would “mark a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process,” Obama went on to say that the U.S. would reengage internationally on climate change. As the New York Times noted, these remarks made global warming the “second major policy area” that Obama has addressed since his election, with the first of course being the economy. Second: Today Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA, pulled off a stunning and successful challenge for the chairmanship of the House Energy and Environment Committee, knocking out Rep. John Dingell, D-MI, long known as a staunch defender of the sinking auto industry. Waxman, in contrast, has been an incredibly determined battler for environmental protections and scientific integrity, not to mention a relentless exposer of government corruption and an incredible foe of the tobacco industry. This means the chief House committee that will deal with global warming is headed by a very progressive environmentalist and the toughest of fighters. Third: Today Senator Barabara Boxer (D-CA), chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, announced plans to introduce two major climate bills almost immediately after the president-elect’s inauguration. The legislation would closely align with Barack Obama’s campaign promises for large cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and comes just days after his announcement that global warming denial will cease to be US policy. The first bill Boxer described as a “stimulus” to spend up to $ 15 billion per year on clean energy innovations. The second would set up a cap-and-trade system, run by the Environmental Protection agency, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Boxer also announced the title of the first hearing that she will hold in the new year: “How Fighting Global Warming is Good for the Economy and Will Create Jobs.” Based on all of this, we can make several observations. I have to start with this one: Isn’t California–my home state, represented by Boxer, Waxman, and Schwarzenegger–just amazing when it comes to global warming? But still more important: After incredible incompetence, denial of reality, and the jeopardizing our future by the Bush administration, it’s clear we’re finally ready to reverse course. Big things are going to happen in early 2009, and now we know it will be Waxman, Boxer, and Obama working together to make it happen. All indications are that they will be taking some very strong steps: For cap-and-trade, Obama wants to cut emissions 80 percent by 2050. Granted, there are still some pieces of the puzzle to fill in. We don’t know yet who will head the Obama administration’s Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, or White House Council on Environmental Quality.These appointees will play a critical role in determini[...]

Polluters Beware

Thu, 21 Aug 2008 05:22:24 +0000


I've often wondered if EPA actually stands for Environmental Pillaging Act, so contrary to environmental protection are the policies and recommendations that often come from this government organization.

However, in a victory for environmentalists, the US Appeals Court ruled against not allowing states to tighten up air quality standards.

From 1990 when the Clean Air Act was introduced, to 2006, states were allowed to monitor industrial facilities, making sure that they weren't breaching any pollution level laws. Then W and his administration decided that ensuring pollution levels don't exceed acceptable limits was a bad idea and introduced new rules kyboshing the monitoring, essentially leaving polluting facilities unchecked. (Even for the most hardened skeptic this seems to lack basic common sense non?)

The tide turned however, when yesterday the US Appeals court re-instated the mandatory monitoring of industrial facilities, returning power to the states to regulate. According to the Wall Street Journal, the agency has a poor track record in overturning appeals court decisions so let's hope that trend continues. In the spirit of the Olympics - enviros 1 - polluters - 0.

Details of Bush's new climate control plan leaked to the media

Wed, 16 Jul 2008 21:18:48 +0000

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette has uncovered the details of a new “climate control” plan personally developed by US President George W. Bush that is set to be officially announced in the next few days.

Details so far:


Bush to Supreme Court: 'Shove it!'

Fri, 11 Jul 2008 13:37:00 +0000

The Bush administration has decided not to take any new steps to regulate greenhouse gas emissions before the president leaves office, despite pressure from the Supreme Court and broad accord among senior federal officials that new regulation is appropriate now.

White House Covers Up $2 Trillion Global Warming Benefit

Wed, 02 Jul 2008 21:43:19 +0000


Given the massive public outcry over gas prices, the public will no doubt be furious to find out that a plan to save energy and money has been kept under wraps by their own government.

The White House has been sitting on a document for more than 6 months now that estimates a long term savings in excess of $2 trillion through 2040 if the federal government was to enact tougher greenhouse gas regulations for new automobiles.

In the report (you can download Part 1 here and Part 2 here) the Environmental Protection Agency found that:

- technology is readily available to achieve significant reductions in light-duty vehicle GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions between now and 2020 (and beyond);

- the benefits of these new standards far outweigh their costs;

- owners of vehicles complying with the new standard will recoup their increased vehicle sosts within 3-7 years, and;

- new standards would result in substantial reductions in GHGs.

The Wonk Room at Center for American Progress has more.

A Dazzling Display of America's 'Can't Do' Spirit

Wed, 04 Jun 2008 14:19:21 +0000

The United States will tell a July meeting of the Group of Eight rich nations that it cannot meet big cuts in emissions of planet-warming gases by 2020, its chief climate negotiator Harlan Watson said. “It's frankly not do-able for us,” he said, referring to a goal for rich countries to curb greenhouse gases by 25-40 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

Polar Bear Listed as a "Threatened Species" by the US Department of the Interior

Wed, 14 May 2008 19:01:17 +0000

UPDATE 1: Sierra Club just released this statement and this to say on their blog. UPDATE 2: Joe Romm at Climate Progress on the issue.UPDATE 3: And Michelle (predictable as always) Malkin blames the decision on Enviro Nit-wits. She really needs new talking points.UPDATE 4: From the CBD, NRDC and Greenpeace USA the ones who took on the polar bear case. The US Department of the Interior has just announced that is has listed the Polar Bear as a “Threatened Species” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Here's a copy of the news release, analysis to follow shortly on what this means for oil exploration in Alaska:WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today announced that he is accepting the recommendation of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall to list the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The listing is based on the best available science, which shows that loss of sea ice threatens and will likely continue to threaten polar bear habitat. This loss of habitat puts polar bears at risk of becoming endangered in the foreseeable future, the standard established by the ESA for designating a threatened species. In making the announcement, Kempthorne said, “I am also announcing that this listing decision will be accompanied by administrative guidance and a rule that defines the scope of impact my decision will have, in order to protect the polar bear while limiting the unintended harm to the society and economy of the United States.” Kempthorne further stated, “While the legal standards under the ESA compel me to list the polar bear as threatened, I want to make clear that this listing will not stop global climate change or prevent any sea ice from melting. Any real solution requires action by all major economies for it to be effective. That is why I am taking administrative and regulatory action to make certain the ESA isn’t abused to make global warming policies.” In January 2007, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the polar bear as threatened throughout its range based on receding sea ice. At that time, Secretary Kempthorne directed the Fish and Wildlife Service and the USGS to aggressively work with the public and the scientific community to broaden understanding of what is happening with the species. In September 2007, the USGS delivered to the Fish and Wildlife Service nine studies related to the future condition of the polar bear and its habitat. Declines in Sea Ice Documented Kempthorne illustrated the listing decision with charts depicting satellite images of the differences in sea ice from the fall of 1979 to the fall of 2007. (Studies and models at Last year, Arctic sea ice fell to the lowest level ever recorded by satellite, 39 percent below the long-term average from 1979 to 2000. The amount of sea ice loss in years 2002-2007 exceeded all previous record lows. In developing the nine studies it delivered to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the USGS relied upon 10 peer-reviewed climate models, all of which project a decline in Arctic sea ice in the future. In particular, the models project declines in September sea ice of more than 30 percent by the middle of the 21st century. Four of the 10 models project declines in September sea ice in excess of 80 percent by the mid -21st century. Seven of the 10 models show a 97 percent loss in September sea ice by the end of the 21st century. Based on actual observations of trends in sea ice over the past three decades, these models may actually understate the extent and change rate of projected sea ice loss. Under the ESA, five factors determine whether a species is to be listed. One of those factors is wheth[...]

Judge tells US to decide on polar bears, poll tells presidential hopefuls to gird for action

Wed, 30 Apr 2008 20:47:18 +0000

A federal judge has rejected the Bush Administration’s bid for further delay and ordered it to decide by May 15 whether to provide protection for polar bears whose Arctic habitat is melting due to global warming. The decision could also lead to restrictions on oil and gas exploration offshore Alaska and curbs on greenhouse emissions.Meanwhile, a new poll has found that two-thirds of adult Americans believe the next president should do something about climate change, pronto. The court decision requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide whether to list the polar bear as endangered, or to put it in a lesser category of risk such as threatened, or to keep it off the list entirely - an option that would lead to further legal action from the conservation coalition. If it is listed, campaigners will argue anything that might impinge on the bear's habitat, such as recently announced plans for oil and gas exploration off the Alaskan coast, must either be cancelled or put under more rigorous scrutiny. They will also argue the only way to prevent the Arctic becoming entirely ice-free in summer in the coming decades is to make drastic cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions. Two years ago, scientists compiling the Red List of Threatened Species included polar bears, listing them as Vulnerable to Extinction. Warming seas and a marked decline in ice during summer made it likely, they concluded, that numbers would fall by one third within three generations. The White House had stalled since the original petition went forward in 2005. Judge Claudia Wilken of U.S. District Court ruled the government was in breach of its obligations: “Defendants have been in violation of the law requiring them to publish the listing determination for nearly 120 days.”The court decision broke simultaneously with a new poll showing Americans not only want the next president to have a policy on climate change but also to take action against global warming soon after taking power.Bill Becker, executive director of the non-partisan Presidential Climate Action Project, which commissioned the survey, said “when asked about the overall importance of climate change, it is clear from these numbers that strong majorities of American voters want action on the issue, and expect our next president to do something soon after taking office.”All in all, not one of W's better days. Be interesting to know what Hillary, Barry and Johnny think of the poll results. Tags: Bush Administrationwhite houseglobal warmingpolar bearsclimate changearcticu.s.Fish and WildlifeJudge Claudia WilkinsPresidential Climate Action ProjectBill Becker[...]

EPA scientists drop bombshell in political-interference survey

Wed, 23 Apr 2008 19:29:59 +0000

Science around environmental matters has long been dismissed in the rough and tumble of U.S. politics, but many scientists contend things got markedly worse through two terms under President Bush, as incidents have shown how political appointees were involved in shaping government reports on everything from climate change to condoms. Now, more than half the 1,600 Environmental Protection Agency scientists who responded to an online questionnaire complained of political pressure in interpreting and performing their work. And four in 10 scientists who have worked at the agency for more than a decade said interference has been more prevalent in the last five years than previously.Hundreds of Environmental Protection Agency scientists said they have been victims of political interference and pressure from superiors to skew their findings, according to a survey by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Francesca Grifo, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Scientific Integrity Program, said the survey results revealed “an agency in crisis” with low morale, especially among scientists involved in risk assessment and crafting regulations. “The investigation shows researchers are generally continuing to do their work, but their scientific findings are tossed aside when it comes time to write regulations,” Grifo said. The survey comes as EPA is under fire from Congress on a number of fronts, including its delay in determining whether carbon dioxide should be regulated to combat global warming. EPA scientists described an agency where senior managers and the White House Office of Management and Budget frequently second-guess scientific findings and change work conducted by EPA scientists, the report said. No surprise there.Here's the full report, Interference at the EPA, by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Attached at the end of this post is a pdf version of the full report. AttachmentSize Interference-at-the-EPA.pdf2.89 MB Tags: EPAwhite houseUnion of Concerned Scientistspresident bushglobal warmingclimate changeU.S. CongressFrancesca GrifoOffice of Management and Budget[...]

Bush, Burning

Thu, 17 Apr 2008 21:15:09 +0000

Well, everyone is teeing off on Bush's latest global warming speech–and no wonder. I mean, it's pretty staggering when you think about it: The campaigning George W. Bush in the year 2000 was more progressive on this increasingly pressing issue than the lame duck George W. Bush in 2008. The major news from Bush's speech, policy-wise, is that he said we'll “stop the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025”–or, just under two decades from now. But everybody who knows anything about this issue knows that would amount to running a completely unacceptable risk. As Joseph Romm notes, for instance, the IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri has stated that if we fail to take strong action before 2012 it will be “too late.” The bulk of the president's speech then went on to present an intellectually dishonest “either-or” argument on an issue where we really need a “both-and” approach. Throughout the speech, Bush praised technological innovation and disparaged regulatory action as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But of course, the truth is that we need these two kinds of solutions to work together, and while the latter will assuredly have an economic impact, it can be minor and will itself help spur innovation in the private sector as companies adapt to a new emissions regime. Honestly, the truly revealing parts of the speech were these:Some courts are taking laws written more than 30 years ago to primarily address local and regional environmental effects, and applying them to global climate change. The Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act were never meant to regulate global climate change. For example, under a Supreme Court decision last year, the Clean Air Act could be applied to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. … Decisions with such far-reaching impact should not be left to unelected regulators and judges…”….this year, Congress will soon be considering additional legislation that will affect global climate change. I believe that Congressional debate should be guided by certain core principles and a clear appreciation that there is a wrong way and a right way to approach reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Bad legislation would impose tremendous costs on our economy and on American families without accomplishing the important climate change goals we share.” These passages show that Bush is reacting–albeit very intransigently–to recent events which are essentially running out of his control.His hand has been forced. States, the courts, and Congress are all stampeding to take action on climate change precisely because the President has not.Even Bush must now acknowledge that a sea change in public opinion is sweeping him along, even if he only does so in a ridiculously high handed way. It's almost as if Bush should have thrown into his speech:Some former Vice Presidents are making movies that have triggered changing public opinion on the urgency of addressing global warming. But there's a wrong way and a right way to make a global warming movie…” As all of this suggests, we can all but ignore Bush on climate change at this point; he has made himself less and less relevant. The real climate action is now unequivocally in Congress, where the Lieberman-Warner bill should come up soon enough. In the latest speech, Bush strongly suggests that he would veto it.That might serve as his final folly on the climate issue–and one last misstep that will leave him still further behind, and drive Congress to pass an even tougher bill in 2009. So…what can we say about Bush on climate that hasn't already been said? It seems to me that[...]