Guest blogger Jon Coifman is a communications strategist on environmental and clean technology issues, and author of the blog PositioningGreen.com.
Billionaire conservative financier David Koch doesn’t know it, but the cutting-edge energy-saving technologies included in a brand new $211 million research lab that bears his name were partly funded through a government program to reduce global warming pollution. It happens to be the very same program under a blistering attack by one of Koch’s biggest political beneficiaries, the group Americans for Prosperity.
Here’s the story, which has not been publicly reported elsewhere:
On March 7, 2011, Arctic sea ice likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 14.64 million square kilometers (5.65 million square miles). The maximum extent was 1.2 million square kilometers (463,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average of 15.86 million square kilometers (6.12 million square miles), and equal (within 0.1%) to 2006 for the lowest maximum extent in the satellite record.
On Monday, the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced the maximum, “the largest sea ice extent during a given year.” It “marks the end of the growth period for sea ice, and the start of the melt season.”
BINGAMAN: The starting point for the [Senate briefing by oil experts] was one fundamental truth: the primary driver of the price for gasoline at the pump is the price of crude oil. This chart [above] was one of the key ones used by EIA Administrator Newell. It shows the price trends since 2005 for gasoline (in yellow) and crude oil (in green)…. [F]or the last 3 years, gasoline price movements have exactly tracked global crude oil prices. The idea that our gasoline prices are high today because of some policy of the Obama Administration is just not supported by the facts….
The bulk of the discussion at the briefing that we held on Tuesday about high oil prices was about what is going on in the Middle East and North Africa. It should be obvious that this is the major force driving oil prices…. As you can see from this chart [below], oil prices are very sensitive to these kinds of developments….
But what can Congress do to help ease the burden of high prices for U.S. consumers, when oil prices are determined mostly outside our borders? I think a realistic, responsible answer has to be focused on becoming less vulnerable to oil price changes over the medium- and long-term. And we become less vulnerable by using less oil.
Senator Bingaman (D-NM), who is not known for his eloquence, gave a better speech on oil last week than President Obama ever has. Why? Why are Democrats so lame in talking about this potentially winning issue?
In a letter sent to Republican congressional leadership on Tuesday, 48 Senate Democrats criticized the large Republican cuts to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and clean energy investment in a time when oil market speculation is at record levels. The House continuing resolution for the 2011 fiscal year (H.R. 1) “will condemn our country to continued reliance on foreign oil and allow market manipulation that could lead to gas prices rising unchecked,” they said:
As you know, H.R. 1 would reduce funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) by one-third. The CFTC serves as an important “cop on the beat,” working to protect American consumers by cracking down on manipulation and other market abuses that can drive up oil prices. Yet your spending plan would shrink the CFTC budget back to 2008 levels, when Americans were blindsided by both record high gas prices and a financial crisis that cost us millions of jobs. According to CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler, these cuts would cause “significant curtailment of staff and resources.” At a time where gas prices are rising and squeezing American families, we have a responsibility to provide our watchdogs the resources they need to fulfill their important oversight and regulatory responsibilities.
Watch commodities experts explain how the Republicans’ plan could leave excessive speculation unchecked:
“We find it equally troubling that your preferred budget would cut billions of dollars in investments in critical programs focused on developing new alternative fuels and clean energy technologies, undermining our competitiveness and increasing our trade deficit with oil producing nations,” the Democrats wrote.
As economist James Hamilton explained in 2008 in “Understanding Crude Oil Prices,” speculators will take advantage of situations when consumers don’t have ways of switching off oil (“demand elasticity”), dramatically increasing price spikes (“price volatility“). The Republican agenda at the federal and state level is designed to keep Americans hostage to oil — killing off high-speed rail, public transit, electric cars, smart growth, biofuels — while preventing regulation of the profiteers and vulture capitalists benefitting from political instability in oil-producing nations.
The only Democratic senators that did not sign the letter were Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA).
A spokesman for Sen. Gillbrand tells ThinkProgress that she, too, opposes cuts to the CFTC.
By Climate Guest Blogger on Mar 23, 2011 at 12:44 pm
Agency regulates harmful pollution that threatens them
This CAP cross-post by Jorge Madrid and Valeri Vasquez is also available in Spanish. In the AP photo, Hispanic farm workers harvest Ranunculus bulbs in California. 88% of our nation’s farm workers are Latino. They and their families are regularly exposed to harmful pesticides in both the air and water.
All air is not equal in the United States. Low-income and minority Americans tend to live and work in areas where they are disproportionately exposed to pollution that harms their health. Latinos are a particularly vulnerable population: Two-thirds of Latino families reside in areas that do not meet the federal government’s air quality standards.
The Environmental Protection Agency has been a “thin green line” of defense between big polluters and public health since 1970. But that line is in danger of being erased. Conservative politicians are ignoring the desires of their home districts, and leading efforts to attack, defund, and in some cases even abolish the EPA.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a House subcommittee recently that a drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing could be the “Achilles’ heel” that kills the natural gas industry. Like many others, Mr. Salazar sees natural gas, which America has in great abundance, as cleaner and more climate-friendly than coal or oil and a useful transition to alternative fuels. But he also fears, as we do, that public support for drilling will diminish unless the industry and its state and federal regulators do a better job of making sure the gas does no harm to drinking water.
Meanwhile, Japan’s “nuclear boy” explains the crisis to children
The Tokyo government moved to stop infants from drinking the city’s tap water after levels of radioactive iodine were found to be twice the legal limit for babies….
Prime Minister Naoto Kan instructed Fukushima governor Yuhei Sato to order residents not to eat leaf vegetables harvested in the prefecture after radioactive materials far exceeding legal limits were found in 11 types of vegetables….
The US Food and Drug Administration banned imports of food and dairy products from around the plant yesterday as fears over the extent of food contamination continued.
The story is spreading, kind of like radioactivity. No doubt Ann Coulter is rushing to Tokyo even now.
Meanwhile, Japanese animators have created “Nuclear Boy” to explain the meltdowns to kids — or just to be absurd:
I haven’t written much about Libya, in part because there’s so much other crucial stuff to write about and in part because I think it’s only secondarily about oil (beyond the short-term price spike it’s caused).
It certainly is another good example of the White House’s poor messaging — see Dana Milbank’s skewering. Milbank directs us to this quote:
It’s a silly thing to say and counterproductive to believe, especially for a White House that has no narrative to fall back on when things go south (or, in this case, when he goes south … America. Sorry).
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