California has enacted the nation’s first cap-and-trade program, designed to provide financial incentives to companies to help curb greenhouse-gas emissions. After an exhausting eight-hour meeting last Thursday with union leaders, industry representatives, and various supporters and opponents of the plan, the California Air Resources Board voted unanimously to implement the first state-administered system that would stick a price tag on carbon emissions and permit the state’s industries to trade carbon credits. The plan is an integral component of the state’s ambitious 2006 global-warming law, signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, which looks to slash emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
The new air regulations will commence in 2013, and then only for the state’s largest carbon emission entities, typically electrical utility companies and large industrial plants; the program will expand in 2015 to include 85 percent of "pollution" emitters. The plan will first institute a cap on emissions, and then allow businesses that are under their carbon limit to sell their excesses to companies that have exceeded their carbon allowance. Businesses will have an initial requirement to pay 10 percent of their credits, and they will be able to purchase carbon offsets, which will comprise emission containment projects such as investments in forestry, to comply with eight percent of their annual emission obligations.
State officials expect other state and federal officials to observe the California model, hoping that similar programs — or, as they would prefer, a national program — will be employed throughout the country. "When Washington considers how to address climate change, as I think it will, California’s climate plan will serve as a role model for the national program," asserted Stanley Young, the board’s spokesman.
At a news conference in Washington yesterday, a group of U.S. solar panel makers accused China of dumping Chinese-made solar panels on the U.S. market and asked the government for protection by raising tariffs on the offenders. Executives from SolarWorld, which makes its panels in Oregon, were at the conference along with both Oregon Senators.
Said SolarWorld President Gordon Brinser, his company “can compete with anyone in the world [but] illegal subsidies in China [are allowing] the Chinese solar industry to come in and gut and own the U.S. solar industry.” Because the alleged dumping has caused prices to decline, it has put several panel makers into financial difficulty, and was a proximate cause of the disintegration of Solyndra. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) claimed that because of the dumping of panels at below-market prices, “the American solar industry has been collapsing.” Part of the reason is that the Chinese government has been extending low-interest loans to Chinese panel makers, which Wyden called “cheating,” thus allowing them to offer panels for sale below the production costs of U.S. makers.
The group wants the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission to impose a duty on all panels imported from China sufficient to bring the price back up to where the U.S. makers can be competitive, and profitable, again.
In a display of disregard for public opinion, leaders of the ruling Australian Labor Party (ALP) pushed through legislation in the lower house of parliament that will burden their nation with a whole new form of taxation: a carbon tax. Following the razor thin legislative ‘victory’ — a vote of 74 to 72 — opposition leader Tony Abbott of the Liberal Party (LP) gave a “pledge in blood” that his party would dismantle the new tax as soon as his party regains power.
According to an article for the Sydney Morning Herald, the massive legislation was pushed through the Australian parliament with an untimely rapidity reminiscent of President Obama’s effort to nationalize the American health care system. In the words of The Sydney Morning Herald:
Against last-minute efforts by the opposition to delay the passage of the bills and 11th-hour pleas for amendments by some business groups, the government passed its 18 pieces of legislation by a vote of 74 to 72 just before 10am. …
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has vowed to repeal the legislation if he becomes prime minister, though the government has insisted he will not be able to manage that.
The bills were passed with help from crossbench MPs Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Andrew Wilkie, as well as Greens MP Adam Bandt.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and ActionAid USA decided to mark World Food Day on Sunday, October 16, by submitting (three days earlier) a formal complaint against Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The organizations blame EPA's ethanol and biofuel programs for driving up global food prices by diverting important grains from food supplies, thereby exacerbating hunger and starvation worldwide.
CEI and ActionAid filed their complaint under the federal Data Quality Act, claiming that EPA glossed over the negative human and economic impacts of its recent biofuel regulations. In fact, the complaint points out that EPA's published analysis of its ethanol mandates does not even mention resulting hunger and starvation. Moreover, the claimants attest the analysis erroneously minimizes the mandates' economic impacts.
For example, EPA predicted a decrease in world food consumption of only 0.04 percent and "a relatively modest increase in annual household food costs associated with the higher prices commanded by corn and soybeans." Yet the complaint cites a peer-reviewed study published earlier this year that found EPA's biofuel mandates have severely aggravated chronic hunger and poverty in poor areas.
A Colorado landowner ignites his cigarette lighter and holds it close to tap water running from a faucet in his home. A few seconds pass, and the single flame bursts into a ball of fire that sends the man reeling backward.
This shocking scene appears in the 2010 documentary Gasland, produced and directed by filmmaker Josh Fox, which he touts as an exposé on the evils of a particular method of drilling for natural gas called hydraulic fracturing or “fracing,” pronounced “fracking.” Fox claims that nearby drilling contaminated area groundwater, causing the fireball to burst from that Colorado tap.
What Fox ignores is the fact that the landowner, Mike Markham, lodged a complaint with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) in May of 2008, and while investigators did find methane in Markham’s well water, they determined it to be strictly from natural sources. “There are no indications of oil and gas related impacts to [the] water well,” reads the report, and the regulatory agency declared the issue resolved in September of the same year.
A Maryland commission will be offering a recommendation to increase the state’s gas taxes, raise vehicle registration fees, and employ a catalog of new tax hikes to augment roughly $870 million a year in new transportation revenue. Members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding settled on a 15-cents-a-gallon tax hike over three consecutive years, which if approved, would inflate the current 23.5-cents-a-gallon tax to 38.5 cents. Maryland officials plead that the state needs $12 billion to fulfill its transportation needs, and they are predicting a $1 billion shortfall in fiscal 2013.
The commission will make their recommendation to the Democrat-led General Assembly and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) next month. "I think this is a really balanced and reasonable approach," said Gus Bauman, the commission’s chairman. "It gives the governor and the General Assembly something to start debating."
Mr. Bauman said the assembly will make a formal endorsement of the plan at its next meeting in late October. "We all knew this day was going to come, and we’re going to have to make tough decisions," said Bauman, referencing the group’s onerous charge to rescue the state’s exhausted Transportation Trust Fund.
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.