January 31 News: The GOP Misread of Environmental Politics

Other stories below: 7 GW of solar possible for military bases in California and Nevada; UN Panel Outlines Plan for “Low Carbon Prosperity” in Lead-up to Rio SummitThe Republicans Misread of Environmental Politics

As Newt and Mitt continue their ritualistic slugfest before the Republican right-wing base, it’s clear that some of their over-heated rhetoric will be replayed for the independent voters who will eventually decide the race in November. Immigration will hurt these guys with the growing Hispanic vote, and their rabid anti-environmentalism will hurt them with the typical independent suburban voter.

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The attack on climate science and regulation seems to be red meat for the Republican primary voters this winter, but that is a pretty soft target for attack. The political problem with climate change is that its cause cannot always be seen or smelled, and its impact is largely in the future. Attacking regulation is also easy, since rules may be respected and even understood, but they are rarely loved.

Still, Newt and Mitt may be forgetting something pretty fundamental: people like to breathe. A Harris poll this fall reported that 75% of Americans support stricter environmental protection. While this broke down as 90% of all Democrats and 54% of all Republicans, even those opposing most government regulation understand the need for effective policing of environmental pollution.

UN panel urges world to kick off energy revolution at Rio summit this year

A high-profile U.N. panel headed by the presidents of Finland and South Africa hopes to spark an “ever-green” energy revolution later this year in Brazil using a general roadmap it presented Monday on how world leaders could wean the world off fossil fuels.

Its report links the world body’s goals of reducing poverty and inequality to promoting the use of wind, solar and other renewable sources of energy to run the economies of nations rich and poor.

To do that, the panel urges that nations fully integrate the social and environmental costs of their commerce into the prices and measures of their economic goods and services. They also call for creation of a global education fund, improvements in human rights and more programs to empower women — all with the aim of overhauling economies.

The report says governments and international organizations “should work to create a new green revolution — an ‘ever-green revolution’ for the 21st century” by spending more on agricultural research, protecting imperiled plant and animal species, conserving land and water and fighting pollution.

Senators push for bill to approve Keystone pipeline

A group of 44 U.S. senators, all Republican but one, have signed on to proposed legislation that would authorize the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline despite the refusal of President Obama to advance the project.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) introduced a bill Monday that, if passed into law, would allow work to begin immediately on all but the sensitive Nebraska portion of TransCanada’s $7 billion project.

It’s not clear how the bill will advance in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) was the lone Democrat to co-sponsor the bill, but other Democratic senators have expressed support for the controversial project.

Obama put the pipeline on the back burner earlier in January, saying the administration needed more time to review the environmental impact in Nebraska, where the state government is evaluating a new route after rejecting an initial plan that sent the line through a sensitive aquifer region.

Brown ordered firing of regulator who took hard line on oil firms

Late last year, Gov. Jerry Brown pushed for a top state regulator to ease key requirements for companies seeking to tap California’s oil. The official balked.

Relaxing rules on underground injection, a risky method of oil extraction common in the state, would violate environmental laws, wrote Derek Chernow, then head of the Department of Conservation, in a memo obtained by The Times.

The process, in which a rush of steam, water and chemicals flushes oil from old wells, had been linked to spills, eruptions and a Kern County worker’s death. The federal government had asked the state to tighten its regulations, but the oil industry complained that the stringent rules were killing jobs.

A week after Chernow wrote his memo, Brown had him fired, along with a deputy, Elena Miller. The governor appointed replacements who agreed to stop subjecting every injection project to a top-to-bottom review before issuing a permit.

Germany’s green energy sector: can it grow without subsidies?

Germany’s renewable energy sector has experienced a boom in the last decade that has far superseded expectations. Supported by generous subsidies, a public that is fairly open to green investments, and a widespread skepticism of nuclear power, energy producers have covered the country with wind generators and solar panels. Twenty percent of Germany’s electricity now comes from renewable sources.

But the industry risks becoming a victim of its own success. It is locked in a bitter debate with the government about the future of the subsidies that have allowed it to flourish. The government wants to severely curtail the financial support — particular for solar energy, which provides only 3 percent of Germany’s electricity but receives about half the subsidies — although there are doubts the renewable energy industry could survive without it.

BP Feared Spill of 3.4 Million Gallons a Day

On the day the Deepwater Horizon sank, BP officials warned in internal e-mails that if the well was not protected by the blowout preventer, crude oil could burst into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of 3.4 million gallons a day — an amount a million gallons more than what the government later said it believed had spilled daily from the site.

The e-mail conversation, which BP agreed to release on Friday as part of federal court proceedings, suggests that BP managers recognized the potential of the disaster in its early hours, and that company officials sought to make sure that its model-developed information was not shared with outsiders.

The e-mails also suggest that BP was having heated discussions with the Coast Guard over the potential of the oil spill.

Study: DOD could put 7000 MW of Solar on bases — just in CA, NV

A new study conducted by ICF International, a consulting firm on behalf of the Department of Defense, shows that the DOD could put 7 gigawatts of solar on its military bases in just California and Nevada. That’s 30 times more energy than they need and enough power to meet 25 percent of California’s renewable energy needs by 2015.

“The Services will use these results to support their plans for renewable energy development,” said DOD spokesperson Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan.

The push for more renewable energy among the branches of the military has grown in the past few years. The DOD increasingly sees renewable energy as a way to help control and predict its energy costs.

For instance, the study also looked at creating microgrids on the bases, that would allow them to operate independently of the grid should disaster strike.