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.

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.

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