Energy and Global Warming News for June 3, 2010: Will offshore drilling ‘Go the way of nuclear power’? Virginia’s religious leaders call on senators to support climate bill; Two climate change experts to sit on BP disaster investigation panel

Will Offshore Drilling ‘Go The Way Of Nuclear Power’?

Oil is still spilling into the Gulf of Mexico. The feds are looking into criminal charges against BP. And it may take months before the well is capped.

What are the long-term implications for BP, and for the oil industry?

“In the United States, offshore drilling seems set to go the way of nuclear power, with new projects being shelved for decades,” Harvard economist Ken Rogoff predicts. “And, as is often the case, a crisis in one country may go global, with many other countries radically scaling back off-shore and out-of-bounds projects.”

“It took more than thirty years to overcome the psychological and political damage done by [Three Mile Island], and there was no actual nuclear leakage,” writes David Kotok of Cumberland Advisors, an investment management firm. “We estimate that Deepwater Horizon may end up larger in national impact than the nuclear event decades ago.”

Virginia’s religious leaders call on senators to support climate change bill

More than 100 clergy from across the state called on U.S. Sens. Jim Webb and Jim Webb on Wednesday to support comprehensive climate legislation that includes strong emission reductions and protections for low-income families.

The religious leaders signed a letter that was hand-delivered to Webb’s and Warner’s state offices in downtown Richmond Wednesday morning.

“As religious leaders from across the Commonwealth, we are writing to express our alarm at the state of environmental stewardship here in Virginia, and nationwide,” the letter states. “For us as people of faith, this is an issue of basic fairness and justice; not only because we are called to care for creation, but because of who will be harmed most by inaction: the poor and voiceless.

Two climate change experts to sit on investigation panel

The presidential commission being formed to investigate the Gulf of Mexico oil spill will include two academics active on the subject of global warming, according to the Associated Press.

Experts say their selection suggests the commission will examine the nation’s overarching environmental and energy needs, rather than just what went wrong in April at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

The choices are Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science, and former Alaska Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer (D), who is now chancellor of the University of Alaska, Anchorage, reported the news service.

Boesch and Ulmer will sit on the seven-member panel with former Florida Sen. Bob Graham (D) and William Reilly, administrator of U.S. EPA under President George H.W. Bush.

“These appointments portend an impact in both the policy and science of coastal management and restoration and oil spill response,” said Virginia Burkett, chief climate change scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey, who praised their selection.

Does the Senate climate bill “gut” the Clean Air Act?

Does the Senate climate bill tie the EPA’s hands? You increasingly hear from progressives that the American Power Act — the energy and climate bill introduced by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Ct.) — “guts” the Clean Air Act. Some groups have put this critique at the center of a campaign to improve the bill. If blog comments and email chatter are any indication, lots of grassroots greens have adopted it as a red line — reason to oppose the bill entirely.

So what would the bill do to the Clean Air Act, and how bad would it be? Let’s explore!

BP, Halliburton, Transocean Build Legal Teams

Facing multiple investigations, including one from the U.S. attorney general, companies involved in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill have secured legal teams with deep Department of Justice and White House ties.
Oil giant BP PLC recruited WilmerHale, an international firm with 1,000 attorneys. Partner Jamie Gorelick in Washington, D.C., will lead the effort. Gorelick during the Clinton administration worked as deputy attorney general of the United States, the second-highest job at Justice.

Transocean Ltd., which owned and leased to BP the Deepwater Horizon rig, which exploded and sank, recruited Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Halliburton Co. has hired Patton Boggs.

The companies face inquiries from at least seven congressional committees. In stating yesterday that he is launching both civil and criminal probes, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “We will prosecute to the full extent any violations of the law.” There are multiple private lawsuits pending, as well.

NOAA ship to search for underwater oil plumes from leak site

A survey vessel named after the U.S. president who founded the nation’s first science agency is scheduled to depart this city late Wednesday or Thursday for the Gulf of Mexico, with the aim to answer a burning, ominous question: Are there monstrous, miles-long oil plumes spreading underwater from the Deepwater Horizon leak?

The NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson, based out of Norfolk, will embark on a 10-day mission that is “aggressive, sustained, strategic and scientific,” according to Jane Lubchenco, administrator of NOAA, who wore starfish earrings as she addressed media Wednesday afternoon on a wharf at the end of Bienville Street.

Sen. Lugar to propose climate bill alternative

A senior Republican in the Senate next week will propose energy and climate legislation that aims to cut emissions of planet-warming gases, but with far lower goals than President Barack Obama seeks.

enator Richard Lugar, whose home state of Indiana relies heavily on dirty-burning coal to power electric utilities, is crafting legislation he says would achieve about half of the 17 percent cut from 2005 levels in carbon emissions by 2020 proposed by Obama.

At international negotiations on tackling global warming, many countries already are criticizing the United States, saying the 17 percent goal is too meek to be effective.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has said the country’s carbon dioxide emissions, which represent about 80 percent of overall greenhouse gases, have already fallen more than 9 percent since 2005. The recession has played a role, along with heavier reliance on natural gas and more efficient use of fuels.

Lugar’s legislation would cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions through a mix of better fuel efficiency for vehicles, using more renewable fuels for those cars, making new homes and commercial buildings more energy efficient and expanding nuclear power generation.

For heavy-polluting coal-fired power plants, they would be excused from investing in expensive scrubbers over the next few years and in return would voluntarily retire the plants in 2020.

Absent from Lugar’s bill will be any new “cap and trade” system for carbon pollution permits, an idea that anchors climate change legislation passed nearly a year ago by the House of Representatives and included in a draft bill presented by senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman on May 12.

Another step forward for tidal energy (sub’s req’d)

Pelamis platurus, otherwise known as the Yellowbelly Sea Snake, has a new mechanical namesake, a flexible 180-meter monster — nearly the length of two football fields. It is floating here next to a dock, ready to go to sea.

The giant red machine is named after the serpent, one of the few known to thrive in the open sea. The device is designed so that when it’s hit by big waves, it writhes snake-like in the water. As it does, its hydraulic pistons move back and forth. They power its generators to produce a rated 750 kilowatts of electricity.

Pelamis is the second generation of “wave energy converters” designed by Pelamis Wave Power Ltd. After some rough sailing, it is beginning to catch on. The machine in the water was ordered and is now owned by giant German power utility E.ON. Another is under order by Scottish Power, and an array of other investors are interested in the product. Still, the company admits, there is much work left to be done.

Power companies lie back as push begins for Senate bill

Some of the country’s largest electric utilities were among the most enthusiastic supporters last month when Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) rolled out their climate and energy bill.

“This is a historic achievement,” proclaimed Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI). Standing nearby were the heads of three major power companies: FPL Group, Duke Energy Corp. and Public Service Enterprise Group Inc.

But several weeks later, utility industry officials have largely stayed clear of the spotlight on lobbying for the plan that would place mandatory limits on their greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute about a third of the nation’s annual total.

Their silence worries environmentalists and others who face a shrinking window to pass legislation this year and are throwing millions of dollars into their own last-ditch ad campaigns aimed at swaying swing-vote senators.

“If the utilities really want to put their money where their mouth is, there’s a lot more they can be doing to help push us forward,” said Margie Alt, executive director of Environment America. “I hope they do as much as we’re doing to get this to happen.”

12 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for June 3, 2010: Will offshore drilling ‘Go the way of nuclear power’? Virginia’s religious leaders call on senators to support climate bill; Two climate change experts to sit on BP disaster investigation panel

  1. mike roddy says:

    Lots of good info, Sean, thanks.

    The legal teams that BP, Transocean, and Halliburton have assembled are only scary if Holder and the Obama Administration decide to play their game, which will include serious lobbying as well as various legal strategies. Executive orders or other national emergency based authorizations should bypass all of the delays and statutory minutae that they are planning on throwing at us. After all, if the government apparently now has the authority to do anything they want with prisoners they claim are terrorists, as well as bomb civilians in sovereign countries, than the Gulf eruption should certainly qualify as a legitimate exercise of federal power.

    As for the utilities suddenly becoming quiet on the climate bill- this is a little disconcerting. I wish someone would find out the reasons behind this shift. My own guesses are not very comforting.

  2. Andy says:

    Continuing on how the American Power Act in the Senate treats EPA Clean Air Authority (a sticking point for many environmentalists out there), I would very highly recommend David Roberts’ follow up post to the one referenced above, titled “The Senate climate bill gives EPA authority over both old and new coal plants.” article/ 2010-06-02-senate-climate-bill-gives-epa-authority-over-old-new-coal-plants/

    Essentially, there is a little proviso in APA that would give EPA the NEW authority to use the CAA to regulate GHG emissions from Existing, Dirty coal power plants that have escaped CAA regulation for so long. This is apparently little understood and the left needs to be informed!

    Also, HUGE kudos to the religious leaders in VA! As a Christian myself I am so excited to see religious folks pressuring their senators to support APA!


  3. Michael Tucker says:

    I would like to think this enormous eruption of oil in the Gulf would end offshore drilling but I am pessimistic. Here is why: even Obama supported offshore drilling during the campaign. He even said it was safe. That was when gas was $4+ per gallon and Americans were screaming for government to save us. Obama had to support offshore drilling in order to get elected.

    It will happen again. Gas will eventually go back to that price and politicians chasing votes will promise anything; even offshore drilling.

  4. llewelly says:

    Will Offshore Drilling ‘Go The Way Of Nuclear Power’?

    One huge difference between nuclear power and oil power: Nuclear power has always been associated with nuclear weapons, and therefor, with nuclear war. As the American public was bombarded for 50 years with stories about nuclear Armageddon, this has had a severe negative effect on the perception of nuclear power , and especially on nuclear accidents. As of yet, there is no equivalent for oil power, though it is possible global warming will become an equivalent.

  5. Bill W says:

    Let’s hope Lugar’s bill goes nowhere, except possibly in the circular file where it belongs. As noted, cutting emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels is already a woefully inadequate response to the climate crisis. Now Lugar wants even weaker cuts? Take a hike!

  6. prokaryote says:

    Joint venture formed to build £1.7 billion Gwynt y Môr wind farm

    German wind farm developer RWE Innogy, Munich utility company, Stadtwerke München (SWM) and turbine manufacturer Siemens have today (June 4) announced that they have formed a joint venture to develop the 576MW Gwynt y Môr offshore wind farm off the North Wales coast.

  7. prokaryote says:

    Cyclone Phet batters coastal Oman
    “One of the strongest storms ever hitting the arabian sea”

    PAKISTAN: Evacuations begin as Cyclone Phet closes in
    In a statement, the Pakistan Fisherfolks Forum said a search was on for about “160 boats at sea that have not returned”. Between 5,000 and 6,000 people are believed to be on the boats. The Pakistan navy has been assisting with search operations, according to media reports.

  8. prokaryote says:

    Obama on oil spill – hold BP accountable (Interview with Larry King).

  9. prokaryote says:

    Chinese coal-mining city is world’s most polluted

  10. prokaryote says:

    Editor’s note: The staff at has recently been intrigued by the journalism of VICE, an independent media company and website based in Brooklyn, New York. VBS.TV is VICE’s broadband television network. The reports, which are produced solely by VICE, reflect a very transparent approach to journalism, where viewers are taken along on every step of the reporting process. We believe this unique reporting approach is worthy of sharing with our readers.

  11. john says:

    I sure hope it does. they can’t get the well capped.

  12. prokaryote says:

    See Tungurahua’s Fire, Hear It Roar
    Earth has been alive with activity in Central and South America over the last week or so. Tropical Storm Agatha in Guatemala and El Salvador. Deadly flooding and landslides. A giant sinkhole piping feature that looks like it extends into the depths of Hell.

    And two volcanic eruptions — one spectacularly annoying, the other simply spectacular.

    While Guatemala’s Pacaya volcano was adding to the country’s unfortunate spate of natural disasters, in Ecuador, Tungurahua has been busy putting put on a show as part of an eruption