Political contention over TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline is rife with rhetoric and claims of environmental apocalypse, as the paperwork for the proposed 1,700-mile Canada-U.S. pipeline gathers dust on President Obama’s in-tray. If approved, the $7 billion expansion will transport Canadian crude oil from the Athabasca Oil Sands in northeastern Alberta, Canada, southeast through the U.S. Midwest, and then on to the Gulf Coast.
The Keystone pipeline was originally proposed on February 9, 2005. The privately funded, shovel-ready project has endured intermittent delays over the years, but it began piping oil to Illinois and Missouri in 2010. Phase II of the project, launched in February 2011, would extend the pipeline from Steele City, Nebraska, to Cushing, Oklahoma — a pivotal crude oil refining and pipeline hub.
Though the pipeline has been in operation for almost a year, a new segment of the project, the Keystone Gulf Coast Expansion, also known as Keystone XL — which would originate in Hardisty, Alberta, and run southeast through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska, while incorporating Phase II of the pipeline to extend to Texas and Oklahoma markets — is facing formidable hurdles. The Canadian government’s National Energy Board approved the expansion in 2010, but is awaiting final approval from the Obama administration.
Developments relating to the Solyndra debacle continue to surface as newly-surfaced internal government emails reveal that an Obama administration appointee at the Department of Energy (DOE) — and major Obama fundraiser — pushed to expedite a $535-million loan guarantee to the now-defunct solar firm. The emails expose "a disturbingly close relationship" among the White House, top campaign donors, and prominent Solyndra investors, according to a senior congressional Republican.
Steve Spinner, an adviser to the Department of Energy, actively endorsed the loan after agreeing to avoid any "active participation" in the application process, because his wife, Allison, was working for Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, a law firm which represented Solyndra. Due to his wife’s association with the company, the DOE had ensured that Spinner would refrain from engaging in "any discussions" relating to the loan details because of a "conflict of interest." In a September 23, 2009 email to a DOE ethics officer, Steve Spinner described active participation as "solicitation, due diligence, [and] negotiations."
Energy Department spokesman Damien LaVera affirmed that Spinner was "authorized [only] to oversee and monitor the progress of applications, ensure that the program met its deadlines and milestones, and coordinate possible public announcements," because of his wife’s relations with Solyndra.
America at the end of WWII produced 60 percent of all the petroleum in the world. In fact, its status as the chief exporter of oil (the United States produced much more than the consumer and war economies needed) was a salient factor in the American victory. Interestingly, at one point the nation produced so much oil and gas that natural gas was “flared” or burned away because it was not economical to transport it. Once, in the lifetime of many Americans, filling stations engaged in “price wars” and sold gas at or near cost to consumers.
Abundant energy has been vital to American prosperity. Coal mines a short train ride from Pittsburgh and iron transported by freighters out of Duluth to ports on Lake Erie made Pittsburgh into the most efficient producer of high quality steel in the world, although other cities such as Birmingham and Bethlehem competed against Pittsburgh.
The steel of Pittsburgh was close to the factories of Detroit, which manufactured automobiles and trucks — and later, warplanes and tanks. Between those two metropolises lay Ohio cities such as Akron, Youngstown, Dayton, and Canton, largely built around the making of tires and glass. The marvelous engine of America industry, which dwarfed the rest of the world, grew not from government plans or subsidies, but rather out of the genius of Americans exercising the blessing of liberty. Freedom was what made our nation affluent and largely self-sufficient.
The deaths of 23 Honduran farmers involved in land disputes with UN-approved palm oil plantations are raising an international outcry against alleged "human rights abuses." EurActiv reports members of the European Parliament (EP) are planning an investigative mission to Honduras this month while others are calling for a ban on carbon credits to the plantations under the EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS). Additionally, it says the UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is weighing its validation process that originally accredited the plantations, a process critics call "only rudimentary, completely unregulated and badly documented."
Protests erupted in July when six international human rights advocacy groups presented a report to the EP detailing what they called murders and forced evictions of peasants in El Bajo Aguán Valley of northern Honduras. The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) report accuses UN-sanctioned palm oil mills of stealing farmland from Honduran natives and killing or wounding them when they attempt to defend their property. It says the companies, acting with government impunity, regularly target members of local land-rights movements who end up murdered in feigned car accidents or hunted down and shot by private security guards.
The Department of Energy (DOE) Friday finalized grants for four solar energy projects. The guaranteed funds being made available to the companies total more than $4.7 billion. Earlier in the week, the DOE awarded separate loan guarantees worth one billion dollars for two solar power plants and one cellulosic ethanol biorefinery.
The decision comes several weeks after the Obama administration announced that Solyndra, a California-based solar energy component manufacturer, was awarded a $535-million loan guarantee. This bureaucratic boon came to Solyndra despite the fact that in 2009 the company had filed for bankruptcy and laid off 1,100 workers. The grant, the circumstances surrounding it, and the recipient’s obvious lack of demonstrable viability combined in a cocktail of controversy that the President is still imbibing.
In addition to the foregoing financing, the DOE announced an additional guaranteed funding totaling $737 million for the construction of the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, a 110-megawatt solar-power-generating facility in Nye County, Nevada. The project is being spearheaded and overseen by Tonopah Solar, a subsidiary of California-based SolarReserve.
Despite the facts produced by the DOE itself regarding the questionable economic feasibility of financing solar and wind power versus traditional sources of energy, the Secretary of the Department wrote in a statement accompanying the announcements:
Claiming that the United States “can’t afford” to lose the race to develop the technologies necessary for a transition to a green economy, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank defended the dispersal of millions of dollars in federal funds to the winners of the government’s i6 Green Challenge.
The i6 Green Challenge is undeniably a very small program; the challenge website acknowledges that approximately $12 million was available for “proof of concept” models. Under business-as-usual in Washington, D.C., the expenditure of $12 million would look like a departmental rounding error. In part, the i6 Green Challenge awards will receive a measure of public scrutiny because of the scandal surrounding President Obama’s favorite (at least until recently) example of a corporation of the new “green economy” — Solyndra — which recently found itself under investigation in connection with $535 million in loan guarantees that it had received from the federal government. The image of Solyndra being raided by FBI agents may continue to linger for a time — much to the chagrin of the President and his standard bearers in government and the media.
An article for CNSNews (“Acting Commerce Secretary: Despite Failures, ‘U.S. Can’t Afford’ Not to Subsidize Green Tech”) highlights the “good money after bad” strategy being employed by the White House: In short, pay no attention to the scandals and lack of success — the “green economy” must be pursued at any cost.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to tighten regulations on natural gas drilling based on grossly exaggerated estimates of greenhouse-gas emissions, according to new industry research.
In its report MisMeasuring Methane: Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Upstream Natural Gas Development, the independent energy analysis firm IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) reveals, "EPA's current methodology for estimating gas field methane emissions is not based on methane emitted during well completions, but paradoxically is based on a data sample of methane captured during well completions." (Emphasis in original.)
The agency's meager "data sample" is based on two slide presentations made at EPA-sponsored workshops, one in 2004 and one in 2007. CERA researchers explain that EPA recorded captured methane at a small sample of wells and now assumes every well in the country releases equivalent levels of methane without operators capturing any of it.
It took one man, working tirelessly in his private laboratory, to light up the world. The invention of the electric light bulb by Thomas A. Edison was the work of an individual, not a collective, not the government. Yet its impact on the world was greater, more productive, and more beneficial than anything that 10,000 government bureaucrats could dream up. The purpose of the government was to secure Edison’s God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It was not to help him invent anything. Its purpose was to leave him alone to do what he did best: invent new wonders that changed the world.
But today, the government can’t keep its hands off anything, including Edison’s great invention. Through a new law entitled “The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act,” the government has mandated phasing out Edison’s remarkable invention and replacing it with a more expensive Compact Flourescent Light Bulb (CFL), which according to lighting engineer Howard Brandston, poses a risk to public health and safety. He testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on March 11, stating the following:
The compact fluorescent lamp contains mercury. One gram of mercury will pollute a two-acre pond. This 2007 light bulb standard brings a deadly poison into every residence in our nation.
We do not have enough knowledge of the potential consequences of being continuously exposed to the electromagnetic field that compact florescent lamps emit. There are millions of people in this country with lupus, an auto-immune disease. Exposure to low doses of light from these lamps causes a severe rash.
Despite ongoing controversy over the federal government’s scandalous loan guarantee to the now-bankrupt Solyndra, a $25 billion green-car loan fund has managed to avoid the congressional guillotine. The Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program, which was established during the Bush years and began dispensing funds during the Obama administration, is designed to provide debt capital to the auto industry and assist manufacturers in retooling facilities and equipment and improving fuel economy for vehicles manufactured in the United States.
In his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama vowed to "break our dependence on oil" and pledged that the United States would "become the first country to have one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015." Considering the ATVM loan program and consumer offerings such as Cash for Clunkers, the President’s proclamation is not a market goal, but a government goal, and as he perceives it, such a target is only achievable through government-sponsored loans and subsidies.
The ATVM program has become a hot target for conservatives, but Senate Republicans choked legislative efforts from House Republicans to shave the $25 billion program by $1.5 billion to help avert a government shutdown and outweigh new spending for disaster relief.
As the Solyndra bankruptcy debacle begins to unwind, President Obama and political leaders will find that an increasingly bright light is shone on the federal government’s mischievous administration of green energy loans and subsidies. William Yeatman, energy policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) — a think tank promoting free markets and limited government — testified at a House Water and Power Subcommittee of the Natural Resources Committee hearing Thursday on a contentious loan program orchestrated by the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), a power marketing administration within the U.S. Department of Energy.
Packaged in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) — Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus plan — the $3.25 billion WAPA loan was authorized to finance various energy projects relating to renewable energy generation. Naturally, the solar technology manufacturer Solyndra, and its controversial bankruptcy, recent FBI raid, and special-interest scandal that left taxpayers on the hook for $535 million, has brought into question the financial viability of taxpayer-funded investments in green energy.